VIFF 2014 | Haemoo

Posted by Christine Kim & filed under Film Festival, VIFF.

Share this Story


, , , , ,


Dir: Shim Sungbo | Dragons & Tigers | South Korea | 2014 | 130 min

Oct 07 9:15 pm | Centre for Performing Arts

Disclaimer: I’m the sort of girl that has seen a movie rated over 14A maybe once in my entire life.

Therefore, as many of you who watched Haemoo can understand, I came out of the theatre shaking and quite evidently disturbed. However, after allowing myself some time to sit, shake, and calm down, I’ve come to enough senses to write this review.

You don’t expect this movie to be as gruesome as it is at first. At first, you are completely wowed by the gorgeous scene shots, the seamless changes in setting, the talented actors/actresses, and the perfect marriage of background music and film mood. While there are moments of intensity, each moment is coupled with tasteful humour. That is, until the director makes a very sharp and ingenious U-turn to bring things into a dark light.

Slowly but surely, you come to realize that this film is not about the rescue of North Korean refugees to South Korea. At this film’s core, it’s about the Jun-Jin, which is the beat-up old ship used to carry the cargo of North Korean escapees, and its crew members (photos of them below). Click here for more details on the Haemoo cast.


The unexpected insanity and quick tumble downhill into the twisted minds of individuals pushed to the brink of their emotional capacity is absolutely captivating.

I do want to mention a word of warning here though. The film does not go through many scene changes and thus, after speaking to other viewers regarding Haemoo, it may or may not be difficult for you to concentrate. With how technology has wired our brain nowadays, it is trying for some to stay focused for a prolonged period of time on a setting that does not change very often.

Nonetheless, this is one film that definitely kept me on the edge of my seat and consistently absorbed into the plot. Except for one little part. Truly, the film was well-produced. However, I was extremely disappointed at the inclusion of an extra scene at the tail-end of the film. It felt like a very untasteful grab at a possible sequel rather than a further conclusion to the loose-ends in the story.

With this being said, I move on to gush about my very favourite aspect of the film: the characters. They were so well-developed I have absolutely no doubt I could probably write an academic English paper about each one of them.

The poignant statements made through the actions of each character in the film, especially that of Hong-Mae, the main female character, say a lot about human nature, not in general, but a specific side of it that one only encounters in extreme moments of human brutality. For me, this message about the  human capacity to cope with experiencing such moments was impactful and allowed me to view certain current affairs in the world through a different lens.

With the proper stomach and concentration, I definitely recommend this film as one worth the time to watch, dissect, and reflect on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *