Director Kwon Chil In is clearly a man who likes to stick to his favourite subject, namely exploring the experiences of women in modern Korea, following up comedy dramas “Singles”, “Loveholic” and “Hellcats” with more of the same in “Venus Talk”. This time around he turns his attention to females of a slightly older generation, following a group of fortysomethings as they undergo a variety of trials and tribulations in life, love and work. Kwon managed to pull together some top talent for the lead roles, with the ladies in question being played by three of the country’s most acclaimed and popular actresses in Uhm Jung Hwa (“Montage”), Moon So Ri (“Oasis”) and Jo Min Soo (“Pieta”). Fans might also note that the film features popular singer BoA making her movie debut with a minor cameo.
Uhm Jung Hwa plays television producer Shin Hye, the film opening with her having just been dumped by her cheating director boyfriend who has shacked up with a younger colleague despite her having spent years supporting his career. Understandably furious, she makes things even more complicated by getting drunk and having a one night stand with a junior co-worker called (Lee Jae Yoon, “A Company Man”), who refuses to accept it as a boozy fling and tries to pressure her into a relationship. Meanwhile, Shin’s housewife friend Mi Yeon (Moon So Ri) tries to push her long suffering husband Jae Ho (Lee Sung Min, “The Attorney”) into having sex three times a week, and café owner Hae Young (Jo Min Soo) tries to spend time with her new carpenter boyfriend Sung Jae (Lee Kyoung Young, “The Terror Live”), her efforts continually thwarted by her grown-up daughter(Jeon Hye Jin, “Shadows in the Palace”), who refuses to leave home.
“Venus Talk” is very clearly aimed at the specific audience demographic of older female viewers, which has been increasingly prominent at the Korean box office in recent years. As such, it’s not necessarily the most accessible of films, and there’s likely to be a fair amount here that won’t prove particularly resonant for the average movie-goer, Kwon Chil In as usual going into considerable depth in the latest episode of his ongoing quest to delve into the female psyche. Though the film does feature comedy as well as drama, it’s a grounded and realistic affair, and the laughs do mainly come through the recognition of certain situations faced by the protagonists that are likely to be familiar to its desired audience – as a result, much of the humour will also go over the heads of younger or male viewers. Lee Soo Ah’s debut screenplay (which won the Grand Prize at the 1st Lotte Entertainment Script Contest) is sharp and insightful, and though the film does fall into the trap of last act melodrama, it’s generally engaging and believable in this respect.
To be fair, though lacking in universal appeal, “Venus Talk” does still have plenty for other viewers to enjoy, mainly thanks to the strong, confident performances of the three female leads, all of whom are on great form. It’s very pleasing to see older actresses being given substantial roles rather than just playing the usual motherly figures, and the film wins points for its frank approach to their sex lives, going into detail without ever being patronising or leering. Kwon’s matter of fact tackling of the subject matter, whilst perhaps a little on the made for television side gives it an earnest feel, and he gets good value out of the script and from his stars. The film is definitely at its best when Uhm Jung Hwa, Moon So Ri and Jo Min Soo are onscreen together, their scenes featuring real chemistry and some entertaining and witty banter.
Kwon Chil In is not only one of the few directors tackling this kind of material in Korea at the moment, but a thoughtful filmmaker who has a track record of working well with his ensemble casts, and with his actresses in particular. “Venus Talk” is on par with his previous works, and thanks to the extra lift provided by its star power is very much worth checking out, for those with an interest in this kind of thing at least.
Chil-in Kwon (director)/Lee Soo-ah (writer)
CAST: Jeong-hwa Eom … Jung Shin-Hye
So-ri Moon … Jo Mi-Yeon
Min-soo Jo … Lee Hae-Young
Jae-yoon Lee … Hwang Hyun-Seung
Sung-min Lee … Lee Jae-Ho
Lee Kyoung-Young … Choi Sung-Jae