Actor Kim Yoon-seok first gained critical acclaim in his 40s for his role as an ex-cop-turned-pimp in the surprise hit film The Chaser (2008). Now, Yoon-seok makes his directorial debut with Another Child, a family drama he co-wrote with Lee Bo-ram, which recently made its Canadian premiere at Fantasia Festival. The film is a complex portrayal of family dysfunction which features quietly emotional performances from its talented cast.
Another Child begins right in the middle of drama. 17-year-old Joo-ri (Kim Hye-jun) catches her father Kwon Dae-won (Yoon-seok) having an affair with restaurant owner Kim Mi-hee (Kim So-jin), who happens to be the mother of her classmate Yoon-ah (Park Se-jin). When they talk at school, the affair causes tension between the teenagers and it worsens when Yoon-ah reveals that her mother is pregnant. Whilst Joo-ri didn’t want her mother Yeong-joo (Yum Jung-ah) to find out about both the affair and pregnancy, everything begins to unravel when she meets Mi-hee and the baby has to be delivered prematurely.
The two teenagers are both completely against the affair and Mi-hee keeping the baby – so against it that they bond over how much they’ve wished for it to die. Yoon-ah has asked her mother to “get rid of it”, while Joo-ri has quietly prayed for it to pass away. Despite this, things slowly begin to change when the baby is in critical care and they wonder if having a little brother wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Another Child is an interesting title for this film because it doesn’t only refer to the baby born out of the affair. The film essentially features a role reversal of a mother finding out her teenage daughter is pregnant. Although a moody teenager, Yoon-ah appears to have more agency than her mother, as Mi-hee never quite seemed to mature into an adult and lives peacefully in her pregnancy without caring about what others think. With a hint of teen-angst, she even tells Yoon-ah, “You’re my daughter. Why don’t you understand me?” before running off crying into her bedroom.
With a lot going on, Dae-won literally runs away and hides from everyone even though he’s the one who has essentially caused this problem. He even runs when Joo-ri and Yoon-ah spot him clearly at the hospital – he doesn’t want to face the consequences for his actions. This is shown in quite a comedic way and, despite his cowardliness, he isn’t necessarily shown to the villain in this complex situation. Yeong-joo remains the only adult who is capable of taking any responsibility. Even when she has her world torn apart when finding out about the affair and pregnancy, she is the one to step in and sort things out. To her, perhaps the baby is just another child she has to deal with, despite its origin.
Whilst most moments hold interest, Another Child is not always fully captivating as the plot doesn’t necessarily advance – but it never loses focus for long. This is due to the film being an intimate portrayal of how affairs can tear families apart in a short space of time. It shows everyone being dysfunctional as they all cope with the outcry of the affair. There’s a lot of heartbreak shown both subtly and overtly as everyone copes with it in different ways. The film relies on its lead cast members – specifically the women – to deliver great performances which hold the film together as they go through many emotions ranging from love to hate. By the end, these women are not who they were at the beginning.
Despite everything, Another Child manages to show the points of view of each character and doesn’t feel the need to ever pick a side. The film serves as a perfect reminder that life is complicated and often unfair, but things sort themselves out eventually. As for Yoon-seok’s first delve into writing and directing, Another Child is a great first feature filled with budding conflict, intriguing characters, and pleasant cinematography. It’s hard to become bored when watching the raw emotion unfold on-screen.