Sisters on the Road



Pusan International Film Festival, Korean Cinema Today: Panorama

A pair of half-sisters travels together to search for their long-lost father, but before finding him, they have to get reacquainted with each other. "Sisters on the Road" takes the dog-eared formula of the odd couple on a road trip, and bends it out of recognition with a twist that would give many viewers a double take.

"Sisters" announces the arrival of a newcomer with a distinctive voice. Director Boo Ji-young's slightly over-stylized film language is offset by her solid ability to elicit dynamic performances from a professional cast. Having well-known stars Shin Min-a and Kong Hyo-jin in the lead could help this essentially independent work make a small incursion into the local mainstream.

Although they grew up together on the resort island of Jeju, Myung-eun (Shin Min-a) and Myung-ju (Kong Hyo-jin) are as different as Gap and Gucci. When their mother dies, Myung-eun discovers where her father might have gone, and asks Myung-ju to help her look for him.

Shot over two days, urban yuppie Myung-eun's contempt for her fishmonger sister's bumpkin manners and happy-go-lucky ways erupts into constant cat fights that reflect their individual personalities and hang-ups with a mixture of droll humor and absorbing drama.

Through flashbacks to their formative years, one begins to trace the deep-seated causes of their animosity. Myung-eun, who comes across as the less flattering character with her career woman's hoity-toity airs, is revealed to have been stigmatized by her father's abandonment. Jealousy also comes into play, as Myung-ju is ironically the one who knew Myung-eun's father, and cherishes affectionate memories of the man.

The character-driven script offers a platform for Shin Min-a and Kong Hyo-jin to work with roles and performance styles alternative to their usual mainstream appearances. They throw themselves into scenes of conflict with the fierce energy and balletic precision of kick-boxers in a ring.

Director Boo packs a lot of back story into the fleeting flashbacks, which are occasionally befuddling, but fall into place like pieces of a puzzle when the plot's big secret is revealed. The twist may be an outrageous contrivance to some, and to others, proof of Boo's daring in taking realist drama to the realm of poetic license.

Production company: DHA Productions Co. Ltd.
Cast: Kong Hyo-jin, Shin Min-a, Chu Guy-jung, Kim Sang-hyun.
Director-screenwriter: Boo Ji Young.
Producer: Yoo Seung-young.
Director of photography: Kim Dong Eun.
Music: Choi Seung Hyun
Editor: Kim So Jin.
Sales: Indiestory Inc.
96 minutes.