Nobody’s Daughter Haewon written and directed by South Korean Hong Sang-Soo, tells the story of the enigmatic, eye-catching film student and aspiring actress Haewon (superb performance by Jung Eun- Chae), who easily attracts men and makes fellow female colleagues jealous. The narrative is told in a diary format and chronicles a few days in Haewon’s life.

Haewon’s mother (Kim Ja-ok) decides to leave for Canada to live with her son. Haewon, in her loneliness and growing depression, rekindles a hopeless affair with her married professor from acting school, director Seongjung Lee (Lee Sun-Kyun), in the hope of having a better life. The accidental meeting with French star Jean Birkin gives her some short-lived happiness. However, most of the time, she seems to be absent, she often falls asleep on school benches and in the college library. In her dreams she fantasizes about an ideal life. Nevertheless when she is awake she continues being absent- minded and slightly withdrawn from social life. Her emontinally complicated relationship with a pathetically funny director is definitely the core of the film story. Apart from experiencing the girl’s struggle it is also important to mention the prefossor’s emontional battle with himself, and his feelings towards Haewon. His decision making whether to stay with his wife or carry on with the romance also adds a little tension to the film. While observing Haewon’s daily life we come to notice a few stubs of cigarettes on the ground, first thrown by a young man who is interested in a tall beauty, and the second one is found when Haewon and Seongjung stroll around the square. Both gestures are accentuated by the camera’s zoom. I think that Haewon in Sand-Soo’s film is similar to the end of the unfinished cigarette, she slowly and emontinally burns out with everything that’s happening around her.

nobody's daughter 01

Sang-soo’s style isn’t hard to miss. Similar to his previous work he uses simple composition and avoids cuts and changes to the montage. He sparingly uses the zoom, he will wait for the ‘perfect moment’ and only uses it when he desires to capture the characters’ facial expressions. The director shot his film in the most ordinary place in Seoul: Seochon West Village district, in the park, square and in cozy looking cafes.

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon is filled with subtle and, sometimes, humerous scenes. The film is well balanced when it comes to the characters of Haewon and Lee. With down to earth cinematography by Kim Hyeong-goo and Park Hong-yeol and Jeong Yong-jin’s music I found the drama engaging.

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon may cause few tears here and there but it will also put a smile on your face. The film had its World Premiere at the 63rd Berlin Film Festival.


Written by Maggie Gogler

This review was originally posted on October 18, 2018 on

All photos © Jeonwonsa Films & JoseE Films

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About viewofkoreancinema

Maggie Gogler is a freelance film producer, production manager and she also works with children. She has a passion for Korean and World Cinema as well as music and arts. Maggie has been interested in cinema since she was 15 and discovered love for Korean films in 2004 when she saw Kim Ki Duk’s The Isle. She supports British and Asian independent film-making and enjoys producing creative and interesting projects. Maggie is the co-founder of View of the Arts and its sister website View of Korean Cinema. Sanja Struna is a freelance translator, occasional writer and a perpetual dreamer. Film is her first and longest-lasting love; since writing is her second, she saw the light a couple of years ago, let the two join hands and entered the field of film journalism. She has honed her knowledge through various film festivals which she either worked for or frequented. She is currently harboring a fascination with all things Korean and condones losing sleep if that means she can watch a good Korean film or drama. Sanja is the editor of View of the Arts and co-founder of View of Korean Cinema.


Film, Film Festival