What is the audience of RomanceTale?
From large commercial releases to low-budget digital films, from action films to romantic comedies, there was more or less something for everyone in , and audiences responded with strong interest and support. Commercially, the first half of the year showed an unmistakable drop from the previous year, but a string of major box office hits followed in the second half, including Welcome to Dongmakgol , Sympathy for Lady Vengeance , Marrying the Mafia 2, You Are My Sunshine , Typhoon , and in the closing days of the year, King and the Clown.
Some government support helped to ensure that small films got released, too. Many of these releases were only on a single screen, and attendance tended to be light, however for many micro-budget films even a single screen can make a difference.
Among critics, Yoon Jong-bin's The Unforgiven received the most notice among these smaller releases, although films such as Git , Spying Cam and Geochilmaru: The Showdown had their supporters. Most of the big news in was taking place outside of Korea, however. A wave of popularity enjoyed by Korean entertainers throughout Asia, particularly in Japan, reached new levels of intensity. The infusion of money into the film industry caused a shift in power relations, and set off some ugly public spats between producers and star management companies.
If there was bad news in , it was the dawning realization that the DVD market in Korea would never emerge into a normal, healthy industry. At the same time, however, Koreans got a glimpse of the future, with the debut of satellite and terrestrial broadcasting for mobile phones, and the promise of various new, hi-tech means of watching films set to emerge in the next few years.
Korean 83, Imported Total admissions: They are listed in the order of their release. Feathers in the Wind Sometimes small-scale, informal projects can liberate a director. Without the pressure and weighty expectations involved in producing a major work, inspiration flows freely and the result is an even more accomplished piece of art. This may have been what happened with Git by Song Il-gon , the director of Flower Island , Spider Forest , and various award-winning short films including The Picnic Git was originally commissioned as a minute segment of the digital omnibus film 1.
Alas, the festival's expectations were confounded, first in that only Lee Young-jae's work really engaged environmental issues in a direct way the other two were merely set in rural areas , and second by the fact that Song went out and shot a minute film. As an omnibus work, 1. But if Song betrayed the spirit of the omnibus project, he remained true to the needs of his film. Git centers around a film director who, in the middle of starting his next screenplay, remembers a promise he'd made ten years earlier.
While staying on a remote southern island off Jeju-do, he and his girlfriend of the time agreed to come back and meet at the same motel exactly ten years in the future. Now, years after breaking up, he returns to the small island named Biyang-do, wondering if his ex-girlfriend will remember their appointment. It seems appropriate that Git 's basic setup recalls Richard Linklater's Before Sunset , another film that stands out for the beauty and simplicity of its construction On Biyang-do, the director -- named Jang Hyun-seong, the same as the actor who portrays him -- is overpowered with both memories of the past and the beauty of the island.
As he waits, the pressures of his work life start to recede, and he becomes acquainted with the young woman who runs the motel. Named Lee So-yeon played by -- sure enough -- actress Lee So-yeon of Untold Scandal , the woman is twelve years his junior, and possesses an unusual energy and enthusiasm. Although the general path followed by the plot is pretty straightforward, Song leads us down many odd and fascinating detours.
There is So-yeon's uncle, a middle-aged man with bleached blonde hair who hasn't spoken since his wife abandoned him. A peacock appears on the island, with no clear explanation or motivation. And the tango, a very un-Korean pasttime, makes a striking appearance in the film. In Song's other works, such elements sometimes feel forced or self-consciously arty, but here they blend with the otherworldly presence of the island and add a sense of mystery. Git which means either a triangular flag or "feather" in Korean is surprising in several respects.
One is that such a low-budget film looks so good visually. In Flower Island , Song showed an unusual talent for the aesthetics of digital cinema, but here he takes it one step further. To capture a natural setting so well on a medium that often feels cold and sterile is an unusual accomplishment. The relaxed, convincing performances of the actors also deserve notice.
Lee So-yeon makes her slightly thin character memorable through considerable screen presence, while Jang Hyun-seong of independent films Nabi and Rewind gives the performance of his career. Whatever we feel about the character he portrays, Jang's performance is so real and natural that we can't help but be drawn to him.
In a year that has been lacking in unexpected discoveries, Git is an exciting find. At its rousing premiere at the Green Film Festival in Seoul, a prominent Korean film critic told me it may be the best romance Korea has ever produced. One hopes that it will be liberated from the other two segments of 1. At 70 minutes, it is a perfectly respectable length for a stand-alone feature film, and this is a movie that deserves to travel.
The controversy of The President's Last Bang was being played out in the courtrooms and in the entertainment news. The collapse of the PiFan Film Festival was a hot topic and the hype surrounding the impending release of Another Public Enemy was overwhelming.
Almost missed among all that was a quiet film directed by a virtual unknown but starring the talented Jo Seung-woo. The media found it interesting as 'a story of human triumph' but most people seemed certain that Kang Woo-suk's feature would dominate the box office. That all changed however, after Marathon had its press screening. It was reported immediately after in numerous newspapers that the journalists in attendance applauded long and hard following the press screening and that most of them were in tears.
The question and answer session with the director and lead actors that was held after the showing went on for much longer than anyone was accustomed to. Most questions had to do with how Jo Seung-woo was able to convincingly take on the role of an autistic young man.
What followed next was a powerful nine-week run in the domestic box office where the film eventually went on to gather more than 5 million viewers.
Although it did open in the number two seat slightly behind Another Public Enemy , word of mouth soon launched it into the number one position during its second week. More and more newspapers began to compare its success with that of another sleeper hit, The Way Home , but Marathon soon out-performed that movie as well.
Much of the credit for the success of Marathon falls squarely on the shoulders of Jo Seung-woo. His performance is worthy of the considerable praise that has been heaped on it. Jo convincingly becomes Cho-won, a young man born with autism. In his younger days, Cho-won was prone to tantrums and violence against himself, but the special school his mother enrolled him in and the different athletic activities she taught him eventually helped Cho-won to cope with the world around him.
After he takes third place in a 10km marathon, his mother sets her goals for her son to run a full km marathon in under four hours. However, it is uncertain whether or not Cho-won shares her dreams or if he is just doing what he is told because, as his brother puts it, he is incapable of rebelling against his mother.
Kim Mi-sook does an outstanding job as a mother spurred on to never give up on her son, through a mixture of fiercely defensive love and an enormous amount of guilt.
She skillfully brings Cho-won's mother, Kyeong-sook, to life as a flawed protector of her son. Her obsession to make up for her past failings with Cho-won lead her to virtually ignore the needs of the rest of her family, which succeeds in driving them away emotionally and physically.
When asked by a swimming instructor if she has any wish for herself, she replies that she wishes to die a day after Cho-won. Kyeong-suk believes if that were to happen, she would be able to take care of her son for his entire life, but her motives for saying that are later thrown back in her face, and she is accused of needing Cho-won to stay with her more than her son needs her.
Mentioned at the end of the movie is the fact that the characters of Cho-won and his mother are based on real people. Cho-won was inspired by Bae Hyeong-jin. Just years old at the time of this film's release, Hyeong-jin had already participated in several marathons and a triathlon. He has since gone on to become somewhat of a celebrity, appearing on talk shows and even having a line of TV commercials with SK Telecom. Described as 'having a mind of a five-year old', Mr.
Bae is an accomplished athlete and many of the events of his childhood are depicted accurately on screen. His mother involved him in many physical activities which he seemed to enjoy as a form of therapy, and had him keep a journal. It is from here that the misspelled Korean title of the movie originated.
While he had directed a couple of short films prior to Marathon , the last being in , Jeong had more recently worked as an editor for the film Three and as an art director for Wonderful Days.
After this emotionally-charged runaway hit, it seems likely that we will be seeing more from him in the near future.
Although Korea has changed beyond recognition in the 25 years since Kim Jae-gyu pulled the trigger, Park's legacy remains an unresolved question for much of the Korean populace.
Complicating the matter, Park's daughter now leads Korea's centre-right opposition party, ensuring that the historically themed Last Bang would be read as a comment on the present as well as the past. The film itself has got somewhat lost in the controversy surrounding its release, at which time a judge from the Seoul Central Court ordered that four minutes of documentary footage be removed, since it might "confuse" viewers as to what is fact and what is fiction. The footage -- clips of anti-government protests shown at the film's opening, and images from Park's funeral that accompany the end credits -- were important to the overall work, and the four minutes of black screen which appear in their place leave the audience with an altogether different viewing experience.
Many have viewed Last Bang as a bit of character assassination aimed at the late President Park. An observant reader on the Koreanfilm. The most offensive bits may actually sneak past the radar of many foreign viewers: Just why Park's fondness for things Japanese should be so controversial requires a short history lesson, but suffice it to say that he is being portrayed as being associated and aligned with Korea's former colonizers. Personally, I love the George Bush analogy and I agree that director Im was out to settle a few scores with the many admirers of the former president.
However I can't accept that this is the film's key purpose. If that were the case, there would be no reason to structure the film in the unusual way it is put together. Namely, the emotional climax -- Kim blowing Park's brains out -- occurs not at the end, but halfway through the film.
As much of the plot is devoted to what happens after the event, as to what comes before. Few filmmakers adopt such a strategy, though Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter comes to mind as another example of a film with its emotional climax in the middle, rather than the end. The unusual structure has opened Last Bang up to criticism, with many maintaining that the work loses its energy or focus in the second half. The result for me, however, is to make it much more of a thinking film than an emotional film.
And I maintain that there is enough going on here to justify it as an object of study. I should also note here in fairness to the director that the documentary footage that is meant to be screened over the end credits does pack a complex emotional punch. Without it, the film's ending is emotionally monotone.
I read Last Bang as a film about history. Of course, it covers a specific historical incident, and also tries to capture the mindset of an authoritarian nation the press kit calls it a film about "when a military society turns the gun on itself". But most of all, this is a film about a small group of individuals who consciously decide to change history.
To what extent can an individual, or a small group of people, really do that? This is what I think the movie is asking. The process of unleashing change is portrayed as being unexpectedly simple. Im Sang-soo brings the events of this famous night down to a very human level, through evocative details concerning the many personalities involved, and through his liberal use of black humor a perfect antidote to the chest-thumping heroism we see in other Korean films based on history.
Thus, the final act that brings down the Park era comes across as being quite matter-of-fact. Yet in the chaos that follows the shooting, we gradually realize that Kim Jae-gyu's ambition to transform Korean history is up against forces more powerful than the slain dictator.
An individual can set loose the forces of history, but cannot control them. Those who are familiar with Korean history will know that Park may have made his exit on that night, but the oppressive military dictatorship lived on in another form. Every sentence uttered by Baek resonates beyond its immediate context, and his actions embody a prototype that reappears in many guises throughout history. True, the entire ensemble cast is nothing short of fantastic, including a career-reviving performance by Han Suk-kyu, but everything in the film boils down to Baek's character.
Three cheers to Im Sang-soo. In making this leap from sex a preoccupation of his previous films Girls Night Out , Tears and A Good Lawyer's Wife to politics -- perhaps not such a long leap after all? Now, the only work remaining is to get this film back from its censors. Unlike decisions made by the ratings board, the court's ruling applies internationally as well as in Korea, so it is illegal to screen the uncut version of the film anywhere in the world. Godspeed to the appeals process.
She lives alone in a cheap-looking apartment building, politely answering her aunt's irritating phone calls, purchasing meals, even packets of kimchi , through mail-order service, and taking care of plants.
Jeong-hye is neither autistic nor misanthropic: It is only that she is perfectly happy with remaining in the background of the hustle-bustle of Korean city life. Nonetheless, Jeong-hye's life is beginning to show signs of change. She adopts a lovely kitten. Finally, a chance encounter with a troubled young man Seo Dong-won leads her toward an attempt to address a long-repressed trauma.
Winner of the Best Film Prize at the Pusan Film Festival's New Currents Section, This Charming Girl is a quietly effective character study, made in cinema verite style but nearly completely devoid of the kind of pretensions and self-importance that plague many first-time features. Director Lee Yoon-ki shows a commendable discipline in keeping his hands largely invisible. It is no mean feat to capture the characters in intimate, unguarded moments with handheld camera but to keep the stance non-intrusive, which is what Lee accomplishes here.
When the film slides from objective reality into Jeong-hye's subjective vision limited to the daydream visitations of her mother, played by veteran actress Kim Hye-ok [ Green Chair, Our Twisted Hero ] , the transition is so natural that we do not even question whether she is experiencing a flashback, visualizing a wish, or seeing a ghost. Much of the film's strength must be attributed to the brilliant casting of Kim Ji-soo in the role of Jeong-hye.
When I first saw the film, I pegged Kim to be a newcomer with only a theatrical background: I was therefore stunned to find out later that Kim was a well-known figure in TV drama, most recently featured in MBC's The Age of Heroes , with more than ten years of experience in front of the camera.
Not only does she not break the rhythm of her performance against extreme long takes and close ups, that reveal minute abrasions and scars in her face, she also makes Jeong-hye absolutely believable in her hesitation and withdrawal, without making her neurotic or eccentric. It is an eye-opening performance the likes of which has seldom been seen in Korean cinema, especially melodramas that often push the actor's emotive capacity to maximum overdrive.
Part of the film's attraction comes from the thrill of anticipating when Jeong-hye will break from her routine and reveal her inner turmoil. When it does happen, the "revelation" is inevitably disappointing in its predictability. The plot development leading to Jeong-hye's confrontation with the source of her trauma is one of the film's few obvious weaknesses, even though the sequence in question features another terrific performance by Lee Dae-yeon Camel s , the psychiatrist in A Tale of Two Sisters and a breathtaking long take inside a lady's restroom, showcasing Kim's tour de force performance.
We live in a world where cinema verite takes of sweaty, gymnastic sex or of characters languorously inhaling cigarettes with vacant eyes automatically cue us that they are meant to be serious "art" films.
This Charming Girl , on the other hand, is like an entire film devoted to one of the "extra" figures appearing for a minute or so in these movies, say, a post-office clerk who processes the protagonist's Sturm und Drang letter to her divorced husband, and immediately exits the movie. Director Lee Yoon-ki and the filmmakers, adapting Woo Ae-ryung's novel, deliberately focus on such a seemingly boring and inconsequential character, and restore her integrity as a personage: In the end, it is the film's unwavering gaze, close and proximate, yet deeply compassionate and respectful, that renders This Charming Girl so powerful, and, in collaboration with Kim Ji-soo's superb portrayal, makes Jeong-hye one of the most fascinating characters in recent Korean cinema.
Here, they said, was a uniquely talented director with a hard-edged, innovative style who could breathe new life into the aesthetics of independent-minded cinema. Few people listened to Ryoo's protests that he was, at heart, a genre filmmaker. He pointed to his goofy internet short Dazimawa Lee as much more in keeping with his innate style. Sure enough, his next two features, No Blood No Tears and Arahan were more obviously structured around genre cinema, though he dissected and blended genre archetypes in fascinating ways.
Critics, their expectations confounded, were unimpressed, particularly with Arahan. When will you stop fooling around and make something serious, they seemed to be asking. Though not really a submission to the critics' wishes, the gritty and at times shocking Crying Fist represents a synthesis of the harsh realism Ryoo displayed in Die Bad and the commercial elements of his later work. Much of the film concentrates on the day-to-day experiences of two unrelated men, and contains almost nothing in the way of genre elements.
The movie's resolution then plays out along the lines of the boxing film, but with one key difference that turns the genre completely on its head. His past glory worth almost nothing in the present day, he has found a creative but strenuous way to earn money: In the meantime, his disintegrating marriage places great strain on both wife and husband, not to mention their young son.
Yu Sang-hwan Ryoo Seung-beom is a delinquent from a crumbling neighborhood who gets by on committing petty theft and harassing students. His relationship with his father, younger brother and grandmother is tenuous at best.
One day his life is turned upside down, and like Tae-shik, he reaches the nadir of his existence. More out of frustration than anything else, he takes up boxing. In Korea this film has drawn interest for pairing an acclaimed veteran actor with perhaps the most talented of the younger generation stars.
All the more interesting, then, that Ryoo Seung-beom, the director's younger brother, should end up outshining the lead from Oldboy. Ryoo's portrayal of Sang-hwan which incidentally is the same name of the characters he played in Arahan and Die Bad is a perfect embodiment of caged fury. He speaks very little, but his body language radiates deep-seated anger and pain. Put simply, Ryoo's performance is mesmerizing, and watching him is one of the film's biggest pleasures.
Those who saw him in Arahan will find him completely unrecognizable. Meanwhile Choi Min-shik also gives an excellent performance, but since he portays a character whose spirit has essentially been snuffed out, it's harder to relate to him. We get a strong sense of the aimlessness and desperation he feels, but this also makes the middle sections of the film somewhat tiring to watch.
The viewer's patience is rewarded by the end, however, in a resolution that is emotionally moving on the level of Failan , and backhandedly subversive in its construction. Think of virtually any boxing movie, and you envision a likeable central character underdog fighting at high stakes against a formidable opponent.
As viewers, our emotional energy is funneled into the main character, almost to the point where we're the ones throwing the punches. Unspoken nationalistic or prejudicial feelings sometimes creep unawares into our minds. Now imagine a boxing movie where two men who desperately need a break in life, who we both empathize with so much that it hurts, step into the ring against each other. Who do we cheer for?
It's such a simple variation on the standard formula, but it causes the whole generic structure of viewer loyalties and triumph-against-odds expectations to crash down like a house of cards. Watching this film's gripping resolution play out, we have no idea what will happen, and we hardly even know what to wish for.
As color slowly starts to bleed into the frame, we hear a voiceover by the main character Sun-woo: For the past seven years he has served his gangster boss with unflinching exactitude. He manages an upscale bar called La Dolce Vita which echoes the film's original Korean title , and he despatches people who get in the boss's way with skill and efficiency.
The boss Kim Young-cheol trusts him so much that he asks Sun-woo to look after his mistress Shin Min-ah , and to kill her if she is being unfaithful. A Bittersweet Life posits what might happen if, after all those years, a frozen pysche such as Sun-woo's should suddenly start to melt.
This would seem at first to be an overly romantic notion to throw into a Korean-style noir film, where the violence is gut-wrenching and the hero feels no qualms about putting his gun to a man's forehead and pulling the trigger.
But the emotions that seep into Sun-woo's mind unleash a recklessness in him, that will later transform into fury once he senses that he has been betrayed. The familiar stylistic traits of director Kim Jee-woon , seen before in A Tale of Two Sisters , The Foul King , and The Quiet Family , can be spotted here in abundance, and yet he has never made a movie quite like this one.
It feels nihilistic at times, and as in Oldboy -- which will surely be compared to this film countless times -- the violence is strong and innovative enough to become a topic of conversation. Mixed in with the cruelty is a bit of absurd, black humor in the middle reels, but not enough to lessen the heavy feel of the work as a whole. The end result is a visually stylish, cool film that is both very commercial even though it underperformed in both Korea and Japan , and also complex enough to make it hard to pin down.
One way to approach this film is to simply revel in the details. I love the way Lee Byung-heon savors the last bites of his dessert before going downstairs to beat the pulp out of some rival gangsters who have wondered onto his turf. Perhaps in defiance of Korean critics who, after watching A Tale of Two Sisters , accused Kim of having a foot fetish, the director introduces his striking lead actress Shin Min-ah with a huge shot of her bare feet.
I love the way Shin Min-ah's home is decorated production designer Ryu Seong-hee is Korea's most famous; she also worked on Memories of Murder and Oldboy. And finally, I love the ending, even if I can't speak about it here. If the ending of A Tale of Two Sisters disappoints, the final shots of this film make up a sweet, indelible set of images. The presence of the mill has spawned a bustling village, and given its townspeople a certain degree of wealth.
With climate and trees perfectly suited for papermaking -- and a location remote enough to ensure both privacy and secrecy -- the island has established a profitable business in high quality paper, with trade routes stretching as far away as China. It is on this isolated and largely self-autonomous island that a string of gruesome murders start to take place.
It's not just the growing number of dead bodies, but the sickly innovative cruelty of the killing that breeds apprehension in Won-gyu Cha Seung-won , a government investigator sent from the mainland to solve the case. Soon he discovers that the murders are linked to an incident seven years in the past, in which the former owner of the mill was executed for practicing Catholicism. The townspeople, for their part, are convinced that the dead man's ghost has come back for revenge.
Blood Rain no relation to the famous Korean novel of the same title is the odd fusion of a labyrinthine, complex narrative that calls for one's deepest concentration, and heaps of medieval, gory violence to sicken one's stomach. Straight-on shots of skulls being crushed and men being torn limb from limb are interspersed with ruminations on class relations in Confucian society, and applications of Western and Eastern science as a means of solving the film's central mystery.
The end result is certainly unique and memorable, but sadly its central concept seems to work much better as ideas in a screenplay, than as images on celluloid. This is not to say that the film isn't beautiful. The colors and cinematography, not to mention the rugged setting and elaborate set design, may indeed be the film's strongest element.
But despite the fact that Lee Won-jae and Kim Seong-jae's screenplay has won praise within the local film community, the completed work struggles to hold all of the material contained within it. Major plot points are revealed by voiceover, rather than onscreen action, and to accomodate the film's two-hour running time, many ideas are simply thrown at the viewer, rather than being fully expressed.
Partly as a result, much of the gory violence feels like compensation for a lack of drama. It's a shame, because this project seemed to hold so much potential. Kim does have talent, and he employs some creative transitions in moving from scene to scene.
Unconventional casting was also used in putting Cha Seung-won in the lead role, for his first non-comic effort since Libera Me However, lower marks go to the musical score by Jo Young-wook Oldboy, Silmido , which features a distracting reworking of Rakhmaninov that manages to snuff out much of the film's poetry.
According to traditional shamanist beliefs, chicken blood is supposed to provide some protection against malevolent spirits.
Towards the end of the film, we are shown the depths of the villagers' panic in a scene where at least five real-life chickens get their heads chopped off in gory closeups no time to close your eyes -- it's upon you in an instant.
Clearly there was no CG imagery at work here. I imagine the crew simply cooked them up for lunch after the scene was shot, which makes you think: But philosophical issues aside, the shots are so viscerally disturbing that they distract from a major plot twist that occurs just moments before, and it gives moralizing film critics like myself?
After all the ink spilled in newspapers worldwide over the fish in The Isle and the octopus in Oldboy , Korea is probably now going to become known as that country that likes to rip apart live animals in front of the camera.
It's perhaps fortunate for the makers of Blood Rain that in the same month as its debut, Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier premieres his Manderlay at Cannes with a scene featuring a live donkey slaughtered on set. People don't judge movies purely by objective criteria; they are also drawn to particular works because it says something to them personally.
The Bow , I'm sad to say, was an even tougher slog for me than usual, and a critical consensus seems to have emerged that it is not up to the level of Kim's other recent work. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times went so far as to call it "risibly bad", which is about as nasty a term as I can think of.
So what went wrong with The Bow , anyway? The story centers around a man in his sixties who has been raising a young girl since childhood on a ship that floats unanchored off Korea's western coast. Though the borders of her world are obviously quite limited, she seems happy, and the old man plans to marry her the day she reaches legal age.
The two make their living by hosting fishermen aboard the boat, and also tell fortunes in a rather bizarre and dangerous fashion, by shooting arrows whizzing past the girl's head into a Buddhist painting on the side of the boat.
This method of fortune-telling appears to have been invented by Kim, though possibly inspired by the common practice of dropping a dart onto a spinning disc The film opens in striking fashion with a shot of the weapon that inspired the film's title.
When fitted with an additional piece, the bow becomes a stringed instrument. Sadly, however, the instrument doesn't fit into the film's plot beyond providing for occasional mood music. The bow is utilized more often as a means of fending off lecherous fisherman from the young girl, who braves the dead of winter in a flimsy dress, and who like all the women in Kim's films is pretty gorgeous.
Soon, however, a sensitive male college student shows up on board, and the old man discovers he's going to need more than a bow if he wants to keep the delectable young thing for himself. One of Kim's most common approaches to storytelling is to set up an isolated or marginalized world usually a physical space, but sometimes a way of life like in 3-Iron that operates by its own elaborate set of rules and customs.
Part of the pleasure in watching his films comes in exploring and coming to understand these worlds and how they operate. For example, in The Bow we are shown how the girl and the old man defend themselves in a series of repeated scenes.
First we are shown the man's skill with the bow, then we see how the girl's spatial knowledge of the boat and archery skills can serve as a second layer of defense. These scenes don't really add much depth to the human characters, but they characterize the "society" of the boat itself. One of the problems with The Bow is that the basic setup is quite simple, compared to his previous films.
The world of the floating temple in Spring, Summer The set of attitudes and customs which Kim presents in the film may not be "genuine" Buddhism, but they are worthy of notice in themselves. In The Bow , however, once the ground rules are established, Kim has little left to fall back upon. What a timely analogue for the horrible current political climate the first season was!
And what a powerful and messy tool to deliver that message! Season 2 is more of the same, which is a blessing and a curse. The show is still masterfully crafted, still hauntingly powerful, and still a little clumsy when it comes to its political themes. Meanwhile, Emily a brilliant Alexis Bledel is wiling away as an Unwoman at the radiation-saturated Colonies, and Luke and Moira are biding their time working with refugees in Canada. How did it all happen? June is still very much the central character in this series, but the show makes use of its talented supporting cast by giving Bledel, Dowd, Strahovski, Brewer, and Samira Wiley the spotlight in various episodes through flashbacks or asides.
Bledel — who was a standout last season as a character who all but disappears several chapters into the novel — gives a withering performance in season 2, and proves that she deserves her increased presence.
And the second season wisely makes more use of the brilliant, terrifying Ann Dowd. More Aunt Lydia could easily be overkill, but Dowd is just so delightful to watch in all her malevolent glee.
Every scene of hers is so unsettling to watch, as she gracefully switches from maternal — luring you into a sense of security — to sinister. More so than last season, the men are the weakest part of this series.