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The Housemaid (2011)

January 23, 2011

Written by: Sang-soo Im and Ki-young Kim

Produced by: Sang-soo Im

Directed by: Sang-soo Im

Not rated

107 min.

U.S. Release Date: January 21, 2011 (limited)

Award-winning Korean filmmaker Sang-soo Im’s latest project, The Housemaid, is a dark and twisted thriller-drama about a rich family whose lives are changed for the worse by a newly hired housekeeper.  There have been a lot of very dark, but beautiful and exquisite films coming out of South Korea in the last decade or so (you must see Old Boy, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and Mother).  Im has definitely contributed to the lot of fantastic Korean films during his career, but is The Housemaid a continuance of this trend, or just one of the outliers?




Eun-yi (Do-yeon Jeon) is hired as a housekeeper and nanny in an extravagant mansion by a successful businessman named Hoon (Jung-Jae Lee) and his about-to-pop pregnant wife, Hae-ra (Seo Woo). When Eun-yi is seduced by Hoon, she becomes involved in a passionate affair with him.  Unbeknownst to Eun-yi, Hae-ra finds out of her husband’s actions with the maid.  Instead of confronting the two about it, Hae-ra begins to lay a serious of traps for the maid, along with the other women of the house, her evil mother, and their seemingly loyal but increasingly bitter other housekeeper.  Feeling overcome with thoughts of paranoia and perplexity, Eun-yi must survive the attacks of the household women before it’s too late.



The Housemaid definitely follows suit of many recent South Korean pictures in the sense that is it visually stunning.  Most of the film takes place in a beautiful mansion in the middle of the countryside, so there are plenty of nice-looking subjects for the camera to capture.  Also, given the subject matter, the camera adds to the suggestive nature of some of the initial scenes between Eun-yi and Hoon.  Catching the actors from certain angles completely changes the meaning of the scene, as you’ll witness if you see this film.


The acting performances in this film are top notch.  In a top-down assessment of the entire cast, there are no weak links involved, even the young talent who plays Hoon and Hae-ra’s child.  All of the actors play their roles perfectly to be an ingredient of the greater whole.  Do-yeon Jeon, who plays the title character, is so engaging and so multifaceted, that you may still not know what you think of her even after the film’s conclusion.  As a viewer, you could argue that Eun-yi passively seduces Hoon, that she is crazy, or completely innocent, and with all of these opinions you could be perfectly justified based on the complex performance from Jeon.



The Housemaid is slow-burning thriller that plays like the plot of an opera.  Though there is an overall sense of tension throughout the film, the plot builds to a shocking final crescendo that will leave your mouth agape.  If you like Im’s previous popular films The President’s Last Bang or A Good Lawyer’s Wife, domestic melodrama, or just great cinematography, then you may really enjoy this saucy production.



Rating: ***


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