Runtime: 118 Minutes
Director: Shin Su-won
Writer: Shin Su-won
Stars: Lee Jeong-eun, Kwon Hae-hyo, Tang Joon-sang
By Tom Moore
The latest film from director Shin Su-won, “Hommage”(2022) is a meta character study that delves into the struggles of a seasoned Korean female director.
Normally, when we see films tackle the idea of a director trying to make a career-defining mark, usually they’ve already seen some success and are trying to have a comeback or are new and trying to come out strong. With Ji-Wan (Lee Jeong-eun) though, that’s not the case as her time behind the camera hasn’t been fruitful. She hasn’t seen much financial success, forcing her to lean on her husband (Kwon Hae-hyo) more than she wants to, and her latest film was virtually shunned by audiences. Now on the cusp of leaving film altogether, Ji-Wan takes up one last project to restore a film from the first Korean female filmmaker and ends up gaining new perspectives.
Shin greatly strips away any and all glam or glitter from telling Ji-Wan’s story hitting all the heartbreaking and sometimes darkly comedic aspects of her hardships as a director. The opening of her attending a theater showing of her latest movie is literally every filmmaker’s worst nightmare and her universal struggles of writing her next film are instantly relatable. It also doesn’t help that she doesn’t get much support in her personal life as her son (Tang Joon-sang) and husband constantly cut her down and basically tell her to pack it in. Even when Ji-Wan starts this new project, she’s given the bare minimum support to succeed and is met with criticism and unnecessary obstacles at every turn.
Ji-Wan isn’t without her flaws though as she can do some pretty selfish things and even let her work go above most things, including her own health, but Shin really makes you see her perspective well and feel the same emotions of defeat and anguish in her personal and professional life. Although restoring this film is a “big deal” for the film festival Ji-Wan is doing this for, they’re far from helpful with the lack of budget she’s given and the work she must do looking for missing parts of the film and fixing major audio issues. It’s undoubtedly an exhaustive effort for her and with the lack of support she receives around her, it takes more out of her to accomplish certain feats.
“Hommage” is a very personal look into directing, especially from a woman’s perspective, and it’s what makes it so engaging and even emotional to watch, especially for those that love stories about filmmaking. But it’s not just about film as Shin creates a character study with some deeply personal looks into Ji-Wan’s crumbling life and her struggles to maintain her own love for film. As she faces more obstacles and criticism, you can see the weight it puts on her desires to continue her work or even take better care of herself. There’s even a later part of the film that basically sees her womanhood stripped of her and it’s a total gut-punch and there are other moments with her family that show how she’s pushed into being a certain maternal role she doesn’t want to solely be.
However, Ji-Wan’s arc has some lighter parts to it that come from her takeaways as she researches the film and its secretive director that make it more heartfelt and emotional to watch and it’s mainly because of Jeong-eun’s performance. Jeong-eun, who most might remember from playing the housekeeper harboring a big secret in Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite”, delivers a performance that fits Ji-Wan’s clear inner frustration, but sheer determination to continue her work. It’s incredibly fulfilling to see her not only connect to and be driven by the film she’s working on as well as the story of its director, but also some other people that worked on the film that she comes across. Even when grave warning signs or obstacles start to weigh on her desires to call it quits, there’s a deeper curiosity and care within her to continue that resonates with you.
Shin crafts a touching and intriguing look into the perspective of a struggling female director that continually keeps you invested, definitely thanks to Jeong-eun’s great lead performance, and even manages to strike some subtle emotional chords.