SFF 2016 Review: Alice in Earnestland

Sydney Film Festival - Alice in Earnestland

Alice in Earnestland poster (성실한 나라의 앨리스)An inky black comedy take on the South Korean revenge genre, as one woman goes down the metaphorical rabbit hole.

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)