7.3/10
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A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

Janghwa, Hongryeon (original title)
A family is haunted by the tragedies of deaths within the family.

Director:

(as Kim Jee-woon)

Writer:

(screenplay) (as Kim Jee-woon)

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15 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Credited cast:
Kap-su Kim ...
...
...
...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Woo Ki-Hong ...
Sun-kyu
Dae-yeon Lee ...
Su-mi's Doctor
Seung-bi Lee ...
Park Mi-Hyun ...
Mrs. Bae (Su-mi's and Su-yeon's Mother)
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Storyline

Two sisters who, after spending time in a mental institution, return to the home of their father and cruel stepmother. Once there, in addition to dealing with their stepmother's obsessive and unbalanced ways, an interfering ghost also affects their recovery. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Fairytales have never been this Grimm See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some violence and disturbing images | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

13 June 2003 (South Korea)  »

Also Known As:

A Tale of Two Sisters  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$94,923 (Hong Kong) (22 August 2003)

Gross:

$95,697 (Hong Kong) (22 August 2003)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

On August 24, 10th anniversary of the movie was held at the cinematheque KOFA in South Korea. See more »

Goofs

In the hospital scenes, there is no scar on the back of Su-mi's hand. See more »

Quotes

Mi-hee: There was a girl under the kitchen sink.
See more »

Connections

Version of Janghwa Hongryeonjeon (1972) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

So solid in construction, so consistent in tone and so beautifully disorienting
25 August 2004 | by (Sarnia, Ontario) – See all my reviews

A TALE OF TWO SISTERS goes the furthest of any Asian horror film in proving that Asian horror films are the only horror films you really need to watch. As someone whose grown to love Asian chillers, and as someone who lives for those precious moments when a film actually surprises with a twist ending that I didn't see coming (or at least suspect), I was totally blindsided by this film's intricate plotting.

The set up is simple. Two girls return from the hospital after an extended illness with their father to an imposing, rural, Korean-Gothic house. Almost immediately, their snarky, vaguely condescending and suspiciously omnipresent stepmother (Yeom Jeong-ah, who played a pivotal character in TELL ME SOMETHING) is on them, welcoming them and criticizing them in equal measure (a not-unfamiliar Korean trait, though it deliberately borders on parody here). The tension between the three women only grows thicker from there, as the stronger sister (Im Su-jeong) protects - and increasingly, harmfully overprotects - the weaker sister (Mun Keun-yeong) from the stepmother, who may be a stronger threat than either of them can handle and who blithley informs them that life's a bitch sometimes and she ain't gonna go away!

Obviously, relationships in the household have deteriorated to the point of open hostility and mindgames to which only the puzzlingly sedate father seems immune. Just when one wonders how much better - or worse - things were before the girls were sent away, the filmmakers drop the first of two twist-bombs that instantly provide clues to the pre-story, hints at a possible murder in the very recent past and makes the viewer replay the preceding hour in their mind from a whole new perspective. Absolutely brilliant, but it doesn't end there.

The feud continues - and the hints at prior foul play multiply - until the father decides enough is enough and finally turns to outside help to smooth things over, at which point the puzzle starts to become diabolically clever.

I can see where just about anyone reviewing this film has to remain frustratingly vague in regards to its psychological underpinnings, so solid is its construction, so consistent is its tone and so beautifully paranoid and disorienting is its atmosphere that upon a second viewing, you'd be hard-pressed not to stare at your companion's face (or the collective faces of an audience, preferably) instead of the screen as the realization sets in.

Structurally, comparisons could be made to similar supernatural American thrillers (one in particular from recent vintage) where the ending forces you to reevaluate all that has gone before - and, of course, to rescreen the film to see if the director was sharp enough to include the visual cues you obviously missed. Only this time out, supernatural explanations are not required to understand the bizarre, seemingly paranormal goings-on inside the house. Quite the opposite, really, as suspension of the audience's belief in the supernatural is the film's ultimate goal (after gleefully, necessarily trading in spook show delights for the better part of two hours, no less), and a more clever mechanism by which to do it I've yet to see, even in the consistently intelligence-rewarding pantheon of Asian horror.

Truly a fantastic, artistic piece of movie-making. Highly recommended. (Incidentally, if you purchase the Korean Special Edition DVD, there's a lengthy series of deleted scenes that, while fascinating and informative in their own right, ably demonstrate how tricky this film must have been for the director to pull off . Though several of the scenes clearly give away just a teensy bit too much information, once you've seen the film, it's nice to see how they actually further support the psychological intentions of the filmmakers yet, at the same time, had to go.)


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