In 2019, Bong Joon-homade history as the first non-English language film to win the . That wasn’t the end of his exploits: he catapulted viewers onto the in a treasure trove of South Korean films.
On that same glowing pile is another impeccable South Korean film: The Call of the 2020s. Released on, The Call shares the same Oscar-nominated editor as Parasite: Yang Jin-mo. If you like your storytelling effective, singular and worked with suspense, The Call will generously provide it to you.
The call is set in rural Korea, where 28-year-old Kim Seo-yeon returns home to visit her sick and estranged mother. Above all, she loses her phone during the train journey. This fatal error forces her to use a cordless phone. After a fateful phone call, a real nightmare unfolds.
Seo-yeon interacts with another 28-year-old woman, Oh Young-sook, who calls out for help from her own “crazy” mother. The revelation announced by the trailer: the two women are in the same house, but different times. One is 2019, the other is 1999. Cue great 90s Korean grunge music.
With this strange connection, Seo-yeon in the current timeline is prompted to tinker with unfortunate events from her past. The only catch is that it hinges on his friendship with the other woman in line, whose situation could be far more hellish than his.
The fact that these women interact without meeting in person reveals the profound talent of actresses Park Shin-hye and Jeon Jong-seo. They engage in a cat-and-mouse showdown, tiptoeing through a minefield of unknowns and potential threats. The tension is incessant.
Rounding out the ensemble are the women’s mothers, played by the no less extraordinary Kim Sung-ryung and Lee El. Lee El in particular produces the kind of lopsided parenting performance that haunted children like Carrie, Coraline and Norman Bates.
Every aspect of the filmmaking process was clearly siphoned through a delicate sieve. The attention to detail is impeccable. In addition to editor Yang Jin-mo, the film crew includes Avengers: Age of Ultron and The Great Gatsby colorist Vanessa Taylor. You’ll notice a purple tint covering the scenes with Seo-yeon in the current timeline, representing her sadness and despair. In the past, Young-sook’s scenes glow red, refracting anger, danger, and violence.
The stress you feel as the game unfolds speaks to the depth with which The Call draws you in. Yes, it features a high-level time travel concept, but it’s all underpinned by the pillars of mother-daughter relationships. Oh, and there’s a lesson in there somewhere about the price of changing your destiny, but luckily it doesn’t come slapped in the face at you.
Like a Bong Joon-ho movie, here director and screenwriter Lee Chung-hyun drops a shocking mid-adventure twist that changes everything you know about the playground. It all ends with an emotionally satisfying ending before making a final heartbreaking surprise.
The Call is leafy, inventive, and sophisticated storytelling that leaves you buzzing for the kind of top-notch movies not often found on Netflix. Knock it off the back of Netflix’s streaming shelves ASAP.
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