The movie also highlights how Soo-kyeong reaches for a nice chance for a better life. There is some widower guy who may marry her someday, and it seems that all she will have to do is be nice to him and his adolescent daughter, though that turns out to be not so easy at all. At one point, Soo-kyeong attempts to ingratiate herself with them via her special cooking, but she only finds herself quite embarrassed in front of them, to our little amusement.

In the meantime, out of her longtime spite toward his mother, I-jeong comes to testify against her mother in a lawsuit involving that car accident, which surely angers Soo-kyeong, to say the least. This latest conflict between them eventually prompts I-jeong to leave their apartment. Not knowing what to do next, she depends on one of her co-workers, who generously lets I-jeong stay at her little residence for a while but quickly becomes wary of I-jeong for understandable reasons. Still being an emotionally stunted kid craving for any kind of care or consolation, I-jeong cannot help but lean and stick more and more to her co-worker as time goes by, and that is the last thing her co-worker wants.

The screenplay by director/writer Kim Se-in does not make any excuses and sharply examines its two main characters’ persistent human flaws. Yes, there eventually comes a point where Soo-kyeong and I-jong confront their complex emotional issues in private, but that does not lead to any kind of reconciliation or ventilation. As a stubborn woman who has been adamantly going her way for years, Soo-kyeong refuses to apologize for all those years of emotional and physical abuse inflicted on her daughter, which makes I-jeong all the more despaired and frustrated than before. She does know that she should get away from her terrible mother and her virulent influence as soon as possible, but their emotional bond still feels so strong to both of them that she may not be completely free from her mother for the rest of her life.

Under Kim’s unadorned but strong direction, her two lead actresses give two of the best South Korean movie performances I have ever seen during the last several years. Yang Mal-bok, whom you may recognize for her small supporting turn in the first season of the South Korean Netflix TV Series “Squid Game,” is simply astonishing in her boldly committed performance. Soo-kyeong is surely as mean and cruel as Mo’Nique in Lee Daniels’ “Precious” (2009). But she is at least honest about herself, and Yang brings a morbid integrity to her monstrous but undeniably fascinating character. 

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