Last night I saw an excellent film, Take Care of My Cat, the first feature-length production by Korean director Jae-eun Jeong.
It’s a coming-of-age movie set in Inchon, Korea, following the lives of five women who were a closely-knit group of friends in school, and now in their early 20s and struggling with issues of growing apart, differing aspirations, problems at home and at work, as well as fundamental differences in their backgrounds.
Taehee is absolutely the centre of the film – she is working, unpaid, at her parents’ spa business, meanwhile looking for all and any opportunities for adventure and escape – passing a recreation centre for seamen handing out leaflets, she tries to sign up as a sailor. Overall it’s one of the most women/girl-focused films I’ve seen in ages.
An interview with the director on the official website reveals some of her intentions:
Q: In a way, these girls are all leaving. Haejoo leaves Inchon for Seoul, making a new home for herself there. Taehee tries to leave home and Jiyoung has nowhere to go. Biryu and Ohnjo have a Chinese mother so their nationalities are ambiguous. Where did you come up with such characters?
A: If the main idea is ‘nomad’ then Taehee is a child who has a home but her heart is not there; Haejoo wants to live in the middle of a cosmopolitan so she lives life as a city nomad; Biryu and Ohnjo always exist as still objects on the street so they place no meaning at home; and Jiyoung is under the pressure of the home but becomes free. The characters were set up in this manner so this is a very configured film. (smiles)
Q: Why a cat?
A: First of all, I personally like cats. Also, it is because cats are neglected over dogs. I believe that Korea is a dog-oriented society. (laughs) I think that cats are a bit taboo. In that way, I thought it would be good to connect cats to 20-year-old girls. I had hoped for the girls to be like cats – flexible, independent, complex, to have the tendency to leave if they are not happy with their ownerÉ However, I do not like humanizing certain aspects of animals as it is often the case in nature documentaries. I dislike stories and tales about dogs such as the dog who finds his way home after being sold to a new owner.