A very interesting film that has adopted the recent tendency of the “unlikeable characters” quite well, and definitely deserves a watch, particularly for the finale.
Sexually-infused narratives in Korean cinema have long been peppered with depictions of relationships historically deemed inappropriate by traditionalism. Whether focusing on simply adulterous affairs (April Snow); same-sex lustful need and indulgence (Yellow Hair); sadomasochism (Lies); an older woman’s sexual desire for a much younger male (Green Chair) or vice versa (Eungyo); or even more specifically a teacher’s carnal entanglement with a student in their care (Innocent Thing), such long-time, societally frowned upon (and as a result taboo) sexual encounters – whether repeated or indeed singular – almost always form the basis for cautionary tales requiring an ultimate price to be paid for carnal gratification.
The majority of Misbehaviour is presented more as dark drama than thriller per se, as much an in-depth, increasingly visceral character study of Hyo-joo as it is a building narrative. Early in proceedings, Hyo-joo is described by colleagues as friendly and helpful but it quickly becomes clear that that is a mask for show that allows her to keep those around her at arm’s length. For here we have a woman forced to watch (and grudgingly accept) life incrementally stripping away anything of meaning – her prospects of continuing employment looking increasingly precarious; her useless writer boyfriend expecting her to provide for and indeed virtually serve him while giving nothing in return and in fact walking out on her when she tries to take a stand; etc. With the arrival of Hye-young at the school in the tenured position Hyo-joo desperately yearns she sees the personification of everything she wants but doesn’t have, her jealousy of Hye-young’s privileged and seemingly easy life instantly driving her to absolute hatred, almost laying the entire blame for everything that’s wrong in her life at the young woman’s feet. As such, when she catches Hye-young having sex with Jae-ha it is, from her point of view, the final straw pushing her to the belief that retribution is not only justified by also entirely necessary.
Director Kim Tae-yong (who also wrote Misbehaviour’s script) deftly contrasts the increasingly cold, aggressively negative attitude of Hyo-joo towards Hye-young with the latter’s bouncy, ever-bubbly smiling countenance to ensure that though we can easily understand and even relate to what Hyo-joo is going through we begin to see her frankly nasty interactions and cutting statements as rather mean-spirited, even if we do have the suspicion that Hye-young’s overt niceties are likely forced and fake. Combine these ideas with the repeated narrative switching of hunter to hunted and vice versa, as it were, as the power play between the women ramps up and Misbehaviour’s true strengths cannot fail to be seen.
One should be careful with choosing relationship.
A love triangle between two female teachers and a male student.
Park Hyo-joo is a part time chemistry teacher at a high school. After her colleague goes on a maternity leave, she takes over as the homeroom teacher. However, she becomes envious of the newcomer Cha Hae-young, who became a tenured teacher through her rich connections.
At home, she has to struggle with her deadbeat boyfriend who gaslights her. Eventually, she breaks up with him. One night, Park Hyo-joo discovers Cha Hae-young having sex with a student named Shin Jae-ha. The next morning, she threatens to expose Cha Hae-young unless she breaks up with Shin Jae-ha. In the following days, Park Hyo-joo enrolls Shin Jae-ha in ballet classes, to support him for an upcoming competition. During that time, she seduces the student to cope with loneliness.
Shin Jae-ha wins 2nd place in the competition. Later, he maliciously reveals to Park Hyo-joo that their affair was initiated to give Cha Hae-young leverage over her. Park Hyo-joo’s contract isn’t renewed. She begs Cha Hae-young to negotiate with her father, the Chairman of the board, to which the other woman agrees. Later, at a hotel suite, Cha Har-young reveals that she was just fooling around with Shin Jae-ha and that she never really loved him. Park Hyo-joo murders her by pouring boiling water over her face. She calls Shin Jae-ha at the room, and they have sex, but he asserts that he only loves Cha Hae-young and not Park Hyo-joo. Afterwards, Shin Jae-ha is devastated to discover Cha Hae-young’s corpse. The movie ends with Park Hyo-joo eating at school as the police comes for her.
Differing from the accepted standards of a society.
Kim Ha-neul as Park Hyo-joo
A restrained part-time instructor at an all-male high school. Emotionally torn, she discovers that her junior Hye-young has nabbed a full-time position at the school through her connections.Yoo In-young as Choo Hye-young
Lee Won-keun as Shin Jae-ha
A submissive student, who is keenly aware of his teachers’ physical and emotional needs.
Release date: January 4, 2017 (South Korea)
Director: Kim Tae-yong
Music by: Bang Jun-seok
Box office: US$842,563