Suicide Drama 'Thread of Lies' a Surprise Hit at South Korean Box Office

Courtesy Movie Collage.
"Thread of Lies"

The small-budget local film has struck a major nerve in the country, which has the highest suicide rate in the developed world.

SEOUL -- Thread of Lies, a local drama about a 14-year-old girl's suicide, grossed more than $8 million at the South Korean box office, maintaining a stronghold in spite of competition from Noah, 300: Rise of an Empire and other imported films.

The small-budget film ($1.96 million, or 2.1 billion won) debuted first place over its opening weekend of March 14-16. Though it ceded the top spot to Noah over the past weekend, online reservation rates for the film remain strong according to its distributor, Movie Collage.

PHOTOS: Korea Box Office 2013: Top 10 Movies

Korean offices use admissions as their main box office count, and more than a million people had seen the film as of Tuesday, according to the Korean Film Council.

Thread of Lies is a family drama by Lee Han, the director of the 2011 hit comedy Punch. It revolves around the suicide of a teen girl whose mysterious death later turns out to involve her estranged best friend. Her mother and sister set out to search for the truth.

"The film seems to be resonating strongly with audiences, as suicide -- particularly among youths -- has become a big social issue," said a spokesperson for the film.

Korea has the highest suicide rate among OECD countries, and recently a popular reality TV series was canceled after a contestant hanged herself.

STORY: South Korean Broadcaster Cancels Reality Show After Contestant Hangs Herself

"The film almost did not go into production because onlookers did not have faith in its mainstream appeal," said the distributor.

But thanks to avid response from audiences, select theaters are now showing a barrier-free version, with subtitles/narration for the blind and hearing impaired. Meanwhile, special screenings are taking place for student and teacher groups, and the main cast members are scheduled to take part in an anti-school bullying campaign on March 27. 

Movie Collage says much of the film's box office success can be attributed to word of mouth online -- as can be expected in the country with the highest Internet connectivity in the world.

Korean film fans have been buzzing about Thread of Lies in cyber space.

"I cried all throughout the film. This is a movie everyone in Korea should see," said a user by the name of gjtn on Naver, the country's most popular search and news site.

"As a mother, I was able to relate to the story as if it were my own. It was a well-made film that did not need to use the usual portrayals of violence to make an impact," said another Naver user.

Meanwhile, Paramount's Noah has grossed more than $8.8 million in Korea, with more than 1.2 million viewers so far. Thread is followed by Grand Budapest Hotel300: Rise of an Empire and Non-Stop in the local box office rankings.