The Housemaid (2010, South Korea)

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Premise:

The Housemaid tells the story of Li Eun-yi, a maid to an upper-class family. She has an affair with the father of the household and falls pregnant. When the secret is exposed, Eun-yi is faced with dire consequences and must fight to protect her unborn child.

What to expect:

  • Melodrama
  • Tension
  • Very emotional characters
  • Confronting scenes and themes
  • Reasonably simple plot

Discussion (Warning: Spoilers)

First impressions of The Housemaid may cause the audience to recall a line from The Great Gatsby: “They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money.”

This is certainly a potent theme in The Housemaid. The wealthy Goh family seems able to throw money at all their problems and hope to avoid the consequences. Even at the climax of the film, when Eun-yi turns her anger on the Goh family, the family is able to carry on with their lives afterwards, as though nothing had happened.

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However, the film also raises another question by focusing on the Goh family’s daughter: Nami. Throughout the story, Nami develops a close relationship with Eun-yi. She is the only member of the household to open up to Eun-yi about herself, and the only member of the Goh family to apologise to Eun-yi for the horrible things that the family has done.

Therefore, when Eun-yi’s burning body hangs from the chandelier of the main sitting room, the camera spends barely any time showing the father of the family. Instead, it rests on Nami’s watchful gaze. The film’s closing scene has a similar emphasis on Nami’s gaze, although she says nothing.

The film ultimately asks the question of what effect the tragedy of the film will have on Nami’s impressionable young mind. Will she grow up to have a heart for hurt souls like Eun-yi? Or will she sweep these memorise under a rug and pretend like nothing happened, as her parents want her to do? After all, these events not only shape Nami, but through Nami it shapes her younger brothers and the families that Nami and her brothers may one day lead.

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