I'm sorry that your wife is afraid of cats

The Woman Who Ran ( 2020 )

  |   Feb. 28, 2020

Gam-hee is a married woman living in Seoul who, over the course of a few days while her husband is on a business trip, reconnects with three old friends who live in different parts of the city.  First she visits her friend Young-soon who, after her divorce, has bought a spacious house out in the country, and lives with a housemate and garden, and has assumed a maternal responsibility for her neighbour's daughter. Her second friend Su-young, rents an apartment and gets a special discount rate for artists because she does, after all, produce a play every two or three years. She spends her time dealing with the male suitors from a nearby chic pub she is planning to become a regular at, but wonders if she's too old for this lifestyle. Finally, while attending an almost empty screening of a movie, Gam-hee accidentally bumps into a third friend, Woo-jin, who works there and is now married to a famous artist, a former boyfriend of Gam-hee, who has become successful but talks too much, especially on TV. 

The conversations are pleasant, relaxed and polite. They discuss the fallout caused by the men in their lives, and reminisce on the times gone by, but an undercurrent of pain, regret and relief runs through all of their conversations. What Gam-hee seems to want to know from them above all else is, after all the turns life has taken since they've known each other, are they happy? The answers she gets are varied and incomplete, and their conversations leave so much unsaid. She herself has been married for five years, and it's the first time she has ever been apart from her husband. She tells them all this in turn, gauging their reactions. It's what her husband thinks lovers should do, she tells them unconvincingly.

Very little is revealed in The Woman Who Ran, least of all who the titular character is, but that's part of its charm. The past is left to us to colour in. It's a slow burner, but it gradually envelopes the viewer in the lives of the women onscreen. There is a wonderful restraint throughout, with more being said with the slightest look or pause than many a film manages in its whole runtime. At one point, Gam-Hee is asked if she loves her husband, and she responds with a delayed "Me?" which tells us all we need to know. The director also displays a brilliant comedic turn, exemplified in a standout scene involving a long discussion pitting the welfare of the neighbour's wife against a cat. It must be said that it is helped by a starring role from said cat, who allegedly nailed his performance on the first take. A wonderfully unique and thought provoking movie.

Directed by
Hong Sang-soo
Starring
Kim Min-hee
Seo Young-hwa
Song Seon-mi
Kim Sae-byuk
Kwon Hae-hyo
Runtime: 77 minutes
The Woman Who Ran (2020) on IMDb