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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.05.12] Republic of Korea thriller drama

Munho is a likable veterinary doctor with a thriving practice. He's well liked, happy and getting ready to marry Seonyeong. With the wedding just a few months away, Munho takes his soon-to-be wife on a drive to finally meet his mother and father. The couple stop along the way for coffee with Seonyeong staying in the car to answer a call but when Mucho returns, the car is running and his fiance is gone. Finding her apartment ransacked and assuming that she's been kidnapped, Munho goes to the police but when that's of no help, he hires a former police officer who also happens to be his cousin, to help him track down Seonyeong.

Helpless unravels as Munho and his cousin Jonggeun investigate Seonyeong's past and discover that she is not be the woman Munho thought she was. As they follow the trail of her past they uncover an intricate web of lies and perhaps even a murder. It's a past filled with so much trouble that it would drive away any sane person but Munho is so in love that he's willing to overlook all of Seonyeong's shortcomings, including the gruesome, if it means spending the rest of their lives together.

Helpless is a carefully crafter tale, part police procedural as the pair of men follow the clues to uncover Seonyeong's history but also an intense drama, one that sees Munho's struggle with the realization that he doesn't know the first thing about the woman he was going to marry. Munho is helpless at every turn; not only can he not find his fiance but the further he digs into the past the more it becomes apparent that he'll never get her back but the movie's title also plays into Seonyeong's story. She goes from helpless woman to a cold individual willing to do anything and risk anyone in order to survive. For this reason, the movie's final scene comes as a surprise and even a let down; it seems a cop out that a woman who worked so hard to survive would make the choice she makes but it's not enough of a misstep to render the rest of the movie a write-off.

The missing person angle has been done so often that it's nearly impossible to find a new approach but director Young-Joo Byun's takes a crack at it by adapting Miyuki Miyabe's novel. The results aren't exactly new but it's interesting to see a story that takes the approach of leaving the man to suffer the emotional breakdown while the woman is portrayed as the one capable of anything. The performances are excellent, especially from Seon-gyun Lee as Munho, and the resulting movie is an often intense thriller that explores not only the power of love but the lengths some are willing to take in order to survive.

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