Well-intended feminist South Korean drama Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 is realistic and heart-breaking, but the slow-paced and tell-more-than-show narration could be disappointing to some.
A housewife in her 30s, Kim Ji-young (Jung Yu-mi), is distressed and exhausted from taking care of the household and her young daughter, as well as fulfilling her society’s expectations of a married woman.
One day when visiting her in-laws with her husband Dae-hyeon (Gong Yoo), she suddenly acts and speaks like her mother by speaking against her mother-in-law, who exploits her and expects her to obediently follow her orders and do all the housework.
Worried about his wife’s mental health, Dae-hyeon tries to search for information online and seek help from a psychiatrist, hoping to figure out what’s wrong with his wife.
Revolving around the mental struggles and life of Ji-young, female lead Yu-mi gives a consistently natural and convincing performance, accompanied by a professional cast.
Filled with plenty of dialogue and some flashbacks, the lifelike movie is pretty straightforward and mostly saddening, with a few of good punchlines but also a couple of cliche scenes. But with everything either told or shown explicitly on screen, there’s a lack of subtleness and variety in the way the story is told.
While the director does a good job in reflecting and challenging the gender inequalities and prescribed gender roles observed in the South Korean society, there are moments where a couple of scenes - whose appearances are not clearly explained - seem almost a little too random and merely added for the sake of social critique.
Inspired by Cho Nam-joo’s best-selling novel of the same name, Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 is an average women- empowering story with a potential to be told with more care and depth.