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Take Care of My Cat

Posted by martinteller on March 16, 2013

Five young ladies, recent high school graduates, struggle to keep their friendship alive.  Tae-hee (Bae Doona) yearns to escape her family and the family business, and volunteers as a typist for a disabled poet.  Hae-joo (Lee Yu-won) is vain, ambitious and materialistic, laboring under the delusion that her administrative assistant job is the path to bigger and brighter things.  Ji-young (Ok Ji-young) is the most impoverished of the group, living in a crumbling shack with her grandparents, trying to find work.  The twins Bi-ryu (Lee Eung-sil) and Ohn-jo (Lee Eung-ju) hock their homemade jewelry on the street.  And then there’s Tee-Tee, the kitten that Ji-young gives to Hae-joo on her birthday.

As usual, the portrayal of adolescence in Asian films eclipses the typical version we see in Hollywood, at least in terms of realism.  The interactions between Hae-joo, Tae-hee and Ji-young (the twins are much more in the background) feel very genuine and often quietly heartbreaking.  There is a very convincing level of detail in their conversations, from the little white lies they tell each other to the petty conflicts that cause rifts to develop.  They aren’t obsessed with boyfriends, they’re just trying to get by in a complicated world while holding on to the relationships that have meaning to them.

There is significant emphasis on the role technology plays in modern relationship, with ubiquitous cell phones chiming, constantly causing distractions and substituting for honest connections.  The texting appears onscreen, becoming part of the modern landscape… people are surrounded by the tools of communication but not enough is actually being communicated between them.

Bae is always reliable for an endearing and captivating performance (her presence here brings to mind Linda Linda Linda, another film about friendship between young women, but one tonally quite different).  Ok is very thoughtful as well, and although her character bears the largest burden, her brooding is not overdone.  Lee Yu-won has the toughest role, playing a character who is not that likable, but reveals flashes of vulnerability.

Where the film falters a bit is its third act, where a rather melodramatic twist for the Ji-young character develops.  It’s a forced move to up the stakes (which wasn’t necessary) and get the cat shifting among the members of the group (which could have been done a number of other ways).  However, ultimately it moves the story and the group dynamic to a place that is satisfying in a bittersweet way.  Except for this slight misstep of a plot development, the film is pleasantly understated with rich characterizations.  Rating: Very Good (85)


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