Of all the films I saw at the London Film Festival, Madonna is the one I have the hardest time with, not because it was my least favourite or because it was badly made in any way, just that it’s got some quite challenging material in it. After all, it starts with a dead woman by the side of a canal, in a shot that’s not explained until quite some time later (and to be honest I’m still unclear about that woman), but which is freighted with all kinds of melodramatic baggage. But I’m getting ahead of myself, because most of the film is a sort of build-up to these revelations, as Hye-rim (Young-hee Seo) starts working in the VIP wing of a large city hospital, where she is caring for an ailing billionaire investor, jealously guarded by his son. When he takes a turn and requires a new heart transplant, a mysterious unnamed pregnant patient (So-hyun Kwon) is brought in on life support, and Hye-rim sets out to investigate her past. The bulk of the film, then, is built up in flash-backs about this woman, nicknamed “Madonna”, and her difficult life on the streets. As I hinted above, I don’t quite buy some of the narrative twists taken later in the film, but at its heart this is about the inequities of class, and the unfair pressures put on women, particularly those who are poor, overweight or otherwise marginalised by society. It’s shot through with all kinds of grim and macabre details that can make it difficult to fully love, but there’s plenty in it that shows style and flair.
Director/Writer Shin Su-won 신수원; Cinematographer Yun Ji-woon 윤지운; Starring Seo Young-hee 서영희, Kwon So-hyun 권소현; Length 93 minutes.
Seen at Rich Mix, London, Friday 16 October 2015.