Just like that, November scare is almost over and we’re now down to K-Movie Corner’s final Holloween special installment! While I check for the next film to feature, I chanced upon this mystery-thriller that has been sitting in my movie library for a couple of months already, and upon discovering that it stars one of Ahjummamshies’ all-time favorites, the peanut-sized yet very talented Park Bo-young, I knew already that it’s the perfect time for me to watch this. So chingus, please join me as I review The Silenced!
This 2015 film is set in the 1930s when Korea was still under the Japanese occupation. The whole movie mostly revolved in the four corners of a mysterious sanitarium that houses teenage girls reeling from different health issues. It is written and directed by Lee Hae-young whose eagerness to present something fresh and new to the audience deserves recognition, but I must point out that his efforts to develop what could have been a substantial movie plot fell a bit short.
Honestly, the first half of the movie felt a little draggy that I found myself checking the remaining running time every now and then. In these early moments we saw a sickly and timid girl named Cha Ju-ran (Park Bo-young), who also goes by her Japanese name Shizuko, arrived at the sanitarium together with her stepmother to enrol or more like be abandoned. She has this unspecified contagious lung disease, which is often the reason why she gets bullied by one of her new classmates named Yuka (Kong Ye-jin). But she eventually regained her physical strength thanks to her newly found best friend in the persona of Hong Yeon-deok a.k.a. Kazue (Park So-dam) and the medications being given to her by the headmistress (Uhm Ji-won). This whole scenario where there is an overly composed principal, a bully classmate, and a kind best friend gave me Princess Sarah-ish feels. I can’t also help but compare Park Bo-young’s character here to the one she played in the 2013 fantasy film A Werewolf Boy.
While Shizuko starts to feel better, strange things begin to take place around her as well. Some of her classmates experience severe bleeding and seizures before they disappear, to which the headmistress always has reasons. The girls were left with no choice but to stay quiet due to the oppressive management at the sanitarium, thus the movie’s title. Shizuko then feels that something weird is happening to her body as she gains unexplainable superhuman strength (like Do Bong-soon, yes) and numbness to pain. She and Kazue, who is initially reluctant to help her, investigate at the headmistress’ office only to discover that they are being used as test objects for an experimental project that aims to create super soldiers. So, it’s a sci-fi movie after all, eh? I actually like PD Lee Hae-young’s ambitious plot, but I feel like the grand twist wasn’t given enough backstory for it to create a solid impact on the audience. It’s as if it was just dropped out of nowhere. If only the first half of the movie was maximized to build momentum, then this plot twist could have been much more effective.
Whatever is lacking in the plot is however compensated by the movie’s appealing cinematography and compelling acting performances from the leads. I particularly love the opening scene where it showed a wide-angle shot of the lush green mountains where the sanitarium is located. Also, the production set design team did a wonderful job in creating a very old-fashioned and peculiar atmosphere at the facility—the dimly-lit corridors, the beds that are perfectly assembled in two lines, the girls’ identical look from head to toe, and the headmistress’ flawless fashion style are all visually appealing.
The leads’ strong acting performances also contributed big time to save the movie from being a complete disappointment. Park Bo-young is excellent, as always. Park So-dam, meanwhile, is a delightful surprise, while Uhm Ji-won’s on-point portrayal of a double-faced headmistress is undeniably good. In fact, all of them earned individual acting awards and nominations for the movie from the 52nd Grand Bell Awards, 36th Blue Dragon Film Awards, and 52nd Baeksang Arts Awards.
Now for my most memorable part of the movie, I’d obviously pick the ending where Shizuko and Kazue, and the rest of the girls succeeded to break free from their oppressors, making them the silenced no more. At least, in my interpretation.
Final verdict: Great visuals and acting, but lacks depth storywise. 3/5