‘The Liar’: Film Review

THE LIAR still - H 2015
Courtesy of AFI Fest 2015
Deception has its cost.

Kim Dong-myung’s second feature examines the impacts of compulsive consumerism on a young woman’s complicated personal life.

A modest drama with social-commentary ambitions, The Liar strives to say something original about both the financial and emotional costs associated with unrestrained consumerism. Lacking an internationally recognizable cast and somewhat compromised by a rather uneven final act, however, the film remains best suited to festival play beyond South Korea.

As an assistant beautician at an upscale day spa, Ah-young (Kim Kkobbi) hardly makes enough money to cover her share of the rent on the cramped Seoul apartment she shares with her unemployed, alcoholic older sister and shiftless younger brother. Yet, through a deft combination of fibbing, petty theft and credit-card juggling, she’s able to indulge in designer clothing and luxury-brand accessories that she lords over her co-workers with a superior attitude and a ready set of lies to cover up her deceptions.

A practiced scammer, Ah-young smoothly talks her way into high-end real-estate sales offices and import-car showrooms while purchasing expensive household products she has no intention of paying for before canceling the transactions, all to vicariously experience the lifestyles of the rich and famous. While she tells people she has a rich beau who splurges on her, her boyfriend Tae-ho (Chun Sin-hwan) actually has a modest, unpromising career at a car dealership that leaves him barely able to afford the engagement ring he’s just purchased for her. Indifferent to his marriage proposal, Ah-young breaks up with him, confident that she can find a wealthier suitor, but with her misdeeds and mounting debt threatening to overwhelm her, she faces dwindling options.

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Though timely, filmmaker Kim Dong-myung’s critique of compulsive consumerism lacks both insight and context, neglecting to adequately examine Ah-young’s fixation on luxury-brand fetishism or to demonstrate how the young woman gains any advantage from her deceptions. Instead, Kim treats Ah-young’s penchant for fraud more like a risky hobby she pursues principally for whatever distraction it provides from her mundane lifestyle and for the entertainment value she manages to extract from it.

Kkobbi, lacking adequate underpinning for her character, provides a somewhat erratic performance, as Kim’s script swings between social satire and domestic drama, finally concluding with a rather peculiar denouement. Kim handles her directorial duties competently enough, until the final scenes unravel in near disarray.

Production companies: Little Big Pictures

Cast:  Kim Kkobbi, Chun Sin-hwan, Lee Sun-hee, Le Da-hae, Jang Seo-ee, Shin Yeon-suk, Kwon Nam-hee, Han Jin-hee

Director-writer: Kim Dong-myung

Producer: Bba Nami

Executive producer: Kim Dong-myung

Director of photography: Lee Sun-young

Editor: Lee Yeoun-jung

Music: Jung Jin-hwa


Not rated, 97 minutes