Surrogate Woman is South Korean master Im Kwon-Taek's breakout international success, a film that would in many ways presage his critically acclaimed Chunhyang. The period drama occurs in the Yi dynasty, and covers the progress of a love affair gone terribly awry. Shin, a young heir, is given a surrogate wife to bear his child. However, Ok-nyo becomes more than this for him, and the couple soon become passionate lovers. The woman may have the social status of a servant, but the relationship changes both of them -- at least for a time. Lead actress Kang Soo-Yeon has been widely acclaimed in her role as the surrogate mother. Unfortunately, the film frequently wears its heart on its sleeve, almost forcing its emotionalism on you in the process. The events are traumatic, to be sure, and one is set to wonder about the plight of so many women even less fortunate than Ok-nyo. The overwhelming feeling is that a woman's emotional core has been gutted and spread out for all to see; it's more wrenching than many a blood and guts actioner. It lacks the distance of his later masterpieces like Sopyonje and Festival -- both equally tragic.
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