NOBODYS-DAUGHTER-HAEWON-premiere-image-du-nouveau-Hong-Sang-Soo-36783With three prior Palme d’Or nominations to his name, there aren’t many filmmakers turning out quite as consistently acclaimed films as South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo. However his latest – Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, is a somewhat tamer, uninspiring offering, albeit in line with his typically whimsical, and surrealistic cinematic approach.

Haewon (Jeong Eun-Chae) is a beautiful university student, with dreams of one day becoming an actress. Having big farewell to her dispassionate mother (Kim Ja-ok), who leaves for Canada, the melancholic juvenile decides to reignite her secret relationship with her teacher Seong-jun (Lee Seon-gyun), though bringing about a series of frustrated emotions born out of the couple’s inability to be together freely. While the latter remains resolute in spite of recently fathering a child, Haewon’s promiscuity seduces him, as their pent up emotions finally build towards a boiling point, where they need to decide if they should remain together, or call it a day.

Set against a somewhat placid, contemplative backdrop, there are certainly European – particularly French – sensibilities and influences in Hong’s work, with a sincere, pragmatic take on romance, yet blended triumphantly with that Korean surrealism, to make for a unique style of filmmaking. One intriguing technique used throughout this production, is the constant, shoddy zooming in technique, which makes this seem almost voyeuristic, as though we’re peering in at this couple from a distance, seeing things we shouldn’t be seeing – enhancing the notion that this relationship is supposedly a private one.

The film survives mostly of our fascinating, multilayered protagonist, as Haewon is portrayed early on as being the immature, impressionable youngster she is, with an inherent purity and infectious lust for life. This counteracts effectively with Seong-jun, who is something of a tragic case – as a much older man who craves that optimism and vivaciousness she bears, as he seems to be defiantly against growing up. Haewon offers a route out of reality for him, and the hardships that come with adulthood, and raising a child. However this seeks only in creating a foreboding element to their relationship, as you simply can’t help but question the longevity of it, as despite being two lost souls who think this is what they want, in reality, it isn’t at all. In fact, she still calls him ‘sir’ – which sums up the entire dynamic in their relationship, while at one stage she whimpers, “don’t swear, it scares me”, highlighting the stark age difference between the two, and how she isn’t ready for something so intense.

Though Nobody’s Daughter Haewon has a lot of depth to it, as a film build around two turbulent and somewhat unhealthy relationships, it’s not quite as meaningful nor thought-provoking as Hong’s previous work. The director, who remains a consistent presence and sure fire hit on the festival circuit – will no doubt have anther critical success on his hands with this one, but as for any signs of forthcoming commercial success – well it seems he may just have to wait that little bit longer.