Take Care Of My Cat

Take Care Of My Cat

***1/2

Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

This Korean coming of age drama presents five old schoolfriends as they make the transition from school to adult life over the course of one winter.

The privileged "princess" of the group, Hae-Ju has a glamourous yet menial job with a brokerage firm and is starting to find life in Incheon provincial. The artistic Ji-yeong, whose parents are dead, lives in a shack with her grandparents and dreams of going abroad to further her education, but cannot afford to do so. Tae-hee works for her father, a well-meaning but banal and domineering patriarch. In her spare time she does voluntary work, typing up poems for a physically handicapped man. The ever-cheerful, unfussy twins, Bi-ryu and Ohn-jo, complete the group.

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The film unfolds at an unhurried pace, using the titular cat, a kitten that is passed from one girl to another, as a symbol of their awkward marginal status - neither child nor adult, neither dependent on parents nor independent of them. The characters and story develop out of one another organically until the final quarter, when a life-changing event is used to provide a appropriately dramatic finale and the sense of one chapter ending and another beginning.

Some sequences and images - the girls' night out, the sleepover party, the freeze-frame final shot - are hoary cliches of the coming-of-age film. But the filmmakers' eye for detail and the high standards of performance convey a strong sense of the girls' environment; a place where traditional dumplings and Dunkin' Donuts co-exist uneasily side-by-side and in which social distinctions that hardly mattered in school become increasingly life-defining.

Compared to the others Bi-ryu and Ohn-jo are underdrawn. The filmmakers fail to explore their unusual position, both in terms of having a dual heritage - you probably won't get the fact that they are half-Chinese without access to production notes - and, as twins, of needing to individuate themselves in work, relationships and so forth.

All in all, Take Care Of My Cat is an enjoyable way to spend two hours. Perhaps it doesn't say anything particularly new - Fellini's I Vitelloni still seems to serve as the model 50 years on - but the evident care with which it has been put together and the simple fact that it isn't about privileged Americans are sufficient merits in themselves.

Reviewed on: 23 Aug 2002
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Korean coming of age drama.
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Director: Jeong Jae-eun

Starring: Bae Doo-na, Lee Yo-won, Ok Ji-young, Lee Eun-shil, Lee Eun-joo, Oh Tae-kyung

Year: 2001

Runtime: 112 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: South Korea

Festivals:

EIFF 2002

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