In Her Place (Canada/South Korea)
In Korean with English subtitles.
This glacially paced, minimalist, and quiet domestic psychodrama is an impressive art-house effort by Toronto director Albert Shin.
An affluent Seoul couple (Yoon Da-Kyung and Kyung-Ik Kim) arrive at a farmstead, where they're hosted by a single mother (Hae-yeon Kil) and her taciturn teenage daughter (Ahn Ji Hye). (All characters in the film remain unnamed.) The reason for their visit takes a long time to be revealed, but the couple is adopting the pregnant daughter's unborn baby and are staying at the farm (to hide the wife's lack of pregnancy from friends and family, and are pretending to be in the U.S.) as part of their agreement.
Ever so slowly, the daughter's behaviour (particularly her eating habits) becomes increasingly odd, and the discovery of secret visits from the baby's father sparks conflict.
Much is said by the stark shots of dilapidated, barren farmscapes, and the silent pauses work towards building the narrative tension as much as the characters do. Shin reveals much through the power of suggestion, hinting at more psychological troubles and complexity than actually shown. He also demonstrates a strong sensitivity to the female psyche through his careful character compositions.
Particularly striking is Ahn Ji Hye, who inhabits the troubled emotional space of the daughter with absolute conviction; she conveys much more with her slothlike movements and otherworldly gaze than her words.
The film will reward those who are attuned to finding more meaning in what is left unsaid than what is.
In Her Place screens on Friday (December 5) at 2 p.m. and Saturday (December 6) at 12:30 p.m. at the Whistler Film Festival.