The film is based on the Japanese novel ‘Kasha‘, which was written by Miyabe Miyuki. Lee Sun Gyun plays the role of Jang Mun Ho, a veternarian who is engaged to Kang Sun Young. One day, as the couple is on their way to visiting Jang Mun Ho’s parents, they pull over at a rest stop. When Jang Mun Ho returns to his car after buying coffee for his fiancee, he finds the door unlocked, the engine running, and his fiancee no where to be found. As he begins his search for her, he is led to one dead end after another. The most shocking revelation is that Kang Sun Young was not really Kang Sun Young. Jang Mun Ho’s fiance was living under the name and social security number of another woman. The paper trail leads to greater and more confusing mysteries, which writer/director Young-joo Byun manages to keep straight with the help of occasionally dreamy flashbacks.
Helpless was well-acted for the most part but I thought that Lee Sun-kyun made the movie. After watching it, I can say that the film mixed the two genres very well: Melodrama and Thriller. Some critics say, Byun should not put melodrama element in it, which means the main female character should be evil or vicious to the end. The result is a compelling mystery that engages from beginning to end. And it’s perhaps because Helpless is so engaging that my biggest gripe with the film is that I was unable to read any of the clues (all in Korean of course) in a feeble attempt to piece the mystery together. The scene where Mun-ho totally loses it midway through the film was fabulous – lots of swearing but totally believable. Nothing was turning out how he expected and being mildly threatened was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Accordingly, lenser Kim Dong-young uses grayish hues to accentuate the psychological trauma of Mun-ho’s experience; and it works! All in all the movie was better than I expected, but it won’t be making its way to my list of favorite Korean movies. If you are interested in the movie, I say go ahead and watch it. Since “Helpless” is a based on a Japanese novel, there’s a particular scene involving Kim Min-Hee and blood, that recalls films like “Cold Fish”. An homage, I believe, and it looked great! The story in “Helpless” shows once again how miserable one’s life can be although he/she hasn’t done anything wrong in their life since their birth and how the society and environment around us might drive us to act in an inhumane way. Most of us got used to judging others, but, we never think even for a second about what might be going in someone’s life. I think movies like “Helpless”, once in a while, reminds us in our life,1 on how we cannot and should not judge a person or their life in any circumstances.
I thought that Helpless was a well-acted and written thriller. I read somewhere that If ‘Crucible‘ was like a two-hour long episode of ‘Law & Order‘, ‘Helpless’ is like a two-hour long episode of ‘C.S.I.‘. I couldn’t agree more. My only complaint lies in the movie’s conclusion. Since I don’t want to spoil the details, I’ll just say that I wish the movie ended either 20 minutes sooner or 20 minutes later. An added bonus – for me anyways – was a few random scenes in the film like Jong-geum drinking banana milk or Mun-ho offering an ice lolly to Sun-young. These treats – the banana milk and ice lolly – made me nostalgic for Korea, and how films USED to be before executives cared more for catering to an audience then producing good stories.