South Korea has a particular penchant for revenge films, most notably through Park Chan-wook’s stylish and violent “Vengeance Trilogy” and Bong Joon-ho Mother, and Ahn Gooc-jin’s debut feature film aims to be a comedic skewering of those conventions. There’s a touch of Misery as Soo-Nam (Lee Jung-Hyun) ties up a therapist (Seo Young-hwa), kicking off a tangible thread of of the dark comedy/sinister mix that permeates the first half of the film. As Soo-Nam recounts the descent of her fortunes, never getting a break from her first choice in high school, through to meeting her future husband Kyu-Jung (Lee Hae-young), him suffering multiple accidents and winding up in a coma. Working tirelessly to afford the house Kyu-Jung insisted on buying, ALICE IN EARNESTLAND can be oppressive in the sheer amount of trouble the film puts its lead through. It’s mean-spirited and over-the-top too, as the second half abandons the fast-cutting, cartoonish stylings of the first act, giving way to bloody moments of torture and relentlessly beating down Soo-Nam, quite literally in the case of protester ‘Sergeant Major’ Choi (Myung Gye-Nam). Yet the virtual and individual obstacles in Soo-Nam’s path add to the satisfaction of the revenge fantasy, even if the film never completely finds the balance between black comedy and the typical tropes of the medium.
2015 | South Korea | DIR: Ahn Gooc-jin | WRITERS: Ahn Gooc-jin | CAST: Lee Jeong-hyun, Lee Hae-young, Seo Young-hwa | DISTRIBUTOR: Sydney Film Festival (AUS) | RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes | RATING: ★★★¾ (7.5/10)