For both a directorial and screenwriting debut, Bring Me Home is a certified triumph for Kim Seung-Woo. The film focuses on nurse Jung-Yeon, whose husband is killed in a traffic collision while following a lead on their missing child. After receiving a tip from a police officer, she investigates a rural fishing co-operative in the hope of finally being reunited with her missing son. What unfolds is a dark, gripping thriller from start to finish that marks Kim Seung-Woo as an incredibly talented filmmaker to keep an eye on.

One of the film’s greatest strengths is its narrative. Despite its 108-minute run time, nothing feels like padding and everything neatly fits into place, allowing for an exceptionally well-woven narrative to be crafted. Moreover, the plot oozes an almost Hitchcockian level of tension. The audience knows almost everything, and are simply waiting for the trigger to be pulled so that everything can be brought to light. Even then, Bring Me Home still manages to deliver a few unexpected twists and turns that never feel unearned or out of place. 

At the film’s heart is an incredible performance from Lee Young-ae as Jung-Yeon. Her first major film role since 2005’s Lady Vengeance, Lee is understated but powerful in the role, perfectly capturing a mother’s internal grief and mixing it with the outright conviction required to find her son. While the rest of the cast are all strong in their own right, Lee shines brightly and delivers something truly excellent.

That said, there is something to be said about the level of adversity faced by Jung-Yeon throughout her investigation. Between corrupt police officers, money-hungry siblings, and just a general lack of empathy from anyone around her (save for her case-worker) it feels as though everyone is against her, and it does border on the ridiculous. The climax also feels as though it strays too close to this territory, especially with one or two of the villains feeling almost cartoonishly evil. Thankfully however, Kim manages to pull the film back from the edge well enough to deliver a satisfying ride regardless. 

The few minor issues do little to hinder the film in general. Ultimately, between its smartly structured plot that brims with tension, and incredible central performances, Bring Me Home represents an excellent debut from a highly promising, freshman filmmaker.  

Screened as part of Fantasia Festival