Korean-born writer-director Gina Kim's erotic drama uses overheated melodramatic cliches to explore the pressures of cross-cultural marriage.
New York–area housewife Sophie (Vera Farmiga), the living embodiment of blond-haired, blue-eyed, porcelain-skinned perfection, has never felt out of place in the wealthy, devoutly religious, high-achieving family of handsome Korean-American lawyer Andrew (David McInnis). But her father-in-law's death triggers a crisis in her marriage: She and Andrew have been unable to have children, and relentless pressure to carry on the family name drives him to attempt suicide. After multiple visits to an upscale fertility clinic, Sophie knows what Andrew doesn't: He's the problem, and no amount of praying will make him fertile. Desperate to give David the child he wants and free him for the burden of his family's expectations, Sophie comes up with a desperate plan: She pays financially-strapped Korean immigrant Jihah (Jung-woo Ha), whose dreams are constrained by his illegal status, to impregnate her. They meet surreptitiously in his rundown Chinatown apartment for businesslike sex -- $300 per session, with a $30,000 bonus if and when she conceives -- but against both their wills a bond forms between them. By the time Sophie becomes pregnant and tries to terminate their arrangement, she and Jihah are too intensely connected to return to the lives they once knew.
The shadow of Douglas Sirk's rapturously tragic melodramas lies heavily over Kim's film, as do the Korean tearjerkers of the 1960s she absorbed as a child: Sacrifice and sex are inextricably linked, and women are trapped between duty and self fulfillment. Farmiga's emotional nakedness is breathtaking, but it's more than matched by the multi-hued intensity of her sex scenes with Ha, which range from the awkwardly erotic to the unabashedly steamy. Though the story is formulaic, Kim's rigorous exploration of the infinite nuances of desire is startlingly immediate.
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- Released: 2007
- Rating: NR
- Review: Korean-born writer-director Gina Kim's erotic drama uses overheated melodramatic cliches to explore the pressures of cross-cultural marriage. New York–area housewife Sophie (Vera Farmiga), the living embodiment of blond-haired, blue-eyed, porcelain-ski… (more)