Classic Film Review: A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

‘It becomes a tale of coping with her mental instability and she almost projects a world in which she is the saviour, a complete contrast to reality, and it slowly pieces together this puzzle beautifully’

A Tale of Two Sisters, 2003

Directed by: Kim Jee-woon

Starring: Im Soo-jung, Moon Geun-young, Yum Jung-ah, Kim Kap-soo

 

A South Korean psychological horror film sees a teenage girl, Su-mi (Im Soo-Jung), return home after being in a mental institution. She returns home with her younger sister, Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young), and her father, Moo-hyeon (Kim Kap-soo). There is an obvious disconnect between the whole family at their first dinner, joined by stepmother Eun-joo (Yum Jung-ah). The girls are distant towards their stepmother and soon ghostly visions, nightmares and the attitudes between the characters cause their mental states to deteriorate.

Right from the start after seeing Su-mi being in a mental institution, and her behaviour there, where she refuses to speak to the doctor, we are given a major obstacle in believing anything we believe afterwards. And this works well with the treatment of Eun-joo, as she’s presented as a villain but we know that with Su-mi being our main character, and following her story as a journey, that she then becomes an untrustworthy narrator, so-to-speak, and it allows us to make our own interpretations of who’s really the villain and whether or not any of the incidents do happen or are in the heads of those in the scene.

As with most psychological horrors there is a twist, however the twist in this film takes a good time afterwards before being fully unveiled. While the twists in The Sixth Sense or Psycho have that moment of reveal followed by an immediate understanding, A Tale of Two Sisters doesn’t necessarily have that, and it manages to be more successful and intriguing for it. The reveal is a bit of a head-scratcher because of how some of the scenes played out, and it was a twist I’d crossed off in my head and I loved how they managed to pull it off with the additional twist afterwards. And some of the history which we see at the end, and how it played out earlier on in the film, is so beautifully written.

A Tale of Two Sisters, 2

The psychological aspect is really well told throughout, too, through the behaviour of the characters. It becomes a tale of coping with her mental instability and she almost projects a world in which she is the saviour, a complete contrast to reality, and it slowly pieces together this puzzle beautifully. The colours are vibrant when they need to be, and dark when they need to be, and the soundtrack allows for the scene to be understood even when momentarily reading the subtitles, it’s also well acted and beautifully written. I’ve always considered Japan the go-to Asian country for horror films but if there’s more in South Korea’s locker like this then it could be fascinating to see them pitted against one another later down this series.

 

Personal: * * * *     Acting: * * * *     Writing: * * * * *     Presentation: * * * *

Overall Rating: * * * * ¼

 

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