Starring: Kim Hee Ae, Ko Ah Sung, Kim Hyang Gi, Kim You Jung, Yoo Ah In, Chun Woo Hee, Yoo Yeon Mi, Sung Dong Il.
Running Time: 117 minutes.
Synopsis: After the suicide of her younger sister, Man Ji (Ko Ah Sung) attempts to unravel the causes and mystery behind this sudden event.
Call me cynical and cold, but the subject of bullying is a very difficult one to get right on film. The easy option is to make it out to be one of the most villainous and deplorable acts imaginable, which granted sometimes it can be. However, there’s another side to bullying, one in which the cruel acts may be seen more as jokes or harmless fun. Here are psychological issues for both the victim and the culprit to take into consideration, as well as the feelings and emotions of third parties. THREAD OF LIES is, for my money, the best exploration of bullying ever seen on-screen, as well as being an uplifting tale of life after death and the importance of understanding.
Cheon Ji (Kim Hyang Gi) is the outcast of her class. Not in an obvious way; she still has a group of friends which she hangs out with and attends birthday parties, but she certainly doesn’t quite fit in. One day she takes her own life, represented in a powerful scene in which director Lee Han slowly pans back from an empty dining room where we last saw the family together. The act comes as a shock and Cheon Ji’s older sister Man Ji and mother (Kimm Hee Ae) are soon finding themselves trying to rebuild their lives and discover what the cause of Cheon Ji’s suicide was. This delicate mystery element is propelled forward by a number of balls of yarn discovered, each containing a note from Cheon Ji.
The idea of bullying is handled from every imaginable perspective here, giving a very complete view of a very difficult and relatable subject. Told in a nonlinear style, we flashback to different accounts and memories, where the bullies, led by Hwa Yeon (Kim You Jung), considered their inclusion and manipulation as a type of friendship. At the same time, even the victim is questioned on how she deals with the situation when she finds herself challenged for playing along with the group’s running jokes. Each exploration brings its own moments of joy and pain, where the bullies are just as damaged internally as Cheon Ji herself. It’s a brave script that tackles such complex issues in a fair, balanced, and non-judgemental way.
The acting is miraculous across the board, with the young cast taking centre stage and representing the full gamut of emotions, even when it’s more internal. Kim You Jung is spectacular as the cold and callous Hwa Yeon, but manages to convey the tortured soul beneath the surface. Kim Hee Ae plays the role of Cheon Ji’s mother with all the insecurity and confusion you would imagine. She grieves for her lost daughter, while also trying to keep her own life on track and that of her surviving daughter.
Best of all, the film never takes the bullying to the extreme. Everything is subtle, nagging and nasty, but the true tragedy is that with understanding and communication between the characters, the worst could have been avoided. Avoiding melodramatics, but forcing both the smiles and tears, THREAD OF LIES even has time to dwell in scenes of comedy, mostly thanks to the good intentioned but cowardly Sang Bak (Yoo Ah In). In keeping with the tone of the film, grim and dark cinematography is also avoided, resulting in a beautifully shot piece with an important message.
This is the best film of the year so far.
(5 / 5) THREAD OF LIES is released at the CGV Los Angeles Cinema on Friday 21st March, 2014.