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A Tale of Two Sisters
Reviewed by Nov 24th, 2009

I was expecting the worst when the film opened with a scene of a teenage girl, her hair obscuring her face, being led into a stark white room to talk with a psychiatrist. “Can you tell me about that day?” he asks. “You should be able to remember it clearly.” The girl is completely unresponsive. We are then shown a shot of this girl, Su-mi, and her sister, Su-yeon, arriving at their father’s dreary old house. The girls seem very close, and neither speaks much. A seemingly stereotypical stepmother, Eun-joo, is introduced. We learn that she harasses Su-yeon, often locking her in the large wardrobe, which everyone seems morbidly obsessed with. The house is large, dark and creepy, and we are prepared for a ghost story, though we get something rather different.

Thankfully, there’s not a lot of annoying pop psych in the movie, despite the opening scene. It really focuses on story, emotions, and interaction between characters. For a long time we aren’t sure why Sumi had been institutionalized, we just know something horrific must have happened.

It is clear from the outset that much attention was paid to details in this film; shots were carefully composed, colors were carefully chosen; it is stylized without being annoying. The actors were well-chosen. A general sense of foreboding runs throughout the film. There is little dialogue, which works well to convey the tension and discomfort within the household.

Su-mi has strange nightmares, and su-yeon thinks someone enters her room at night. The father seems to ignore Su-yeon’s troubles completely. The plot seems to get more and more confusing as it progresses, and indeed, the characters interactions only really make sense upon subsequent viewings. There is not a great deal of blood or violence, but what is there was used to the best possible effect. All in all, one of the best (and best-looking) films I’ve seen in recent memory.

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