79.2 F
Los Angeles
Sunday, September 25, 2022

Director Kim Jin-woo explores the meaning of family in latest Netflix series

Must read

“A Model Family,” released on Netflix on Friday, revolves around a chain of events set into action by Dong-ha, portrayed by Jung Woo, the seemingly ordinary breadwinner of a four-member family. [NETFLIX]
“A Model Family,” released on Netflix on Friday, revolves around a chain of events set into action by Dong-ha, portrayed by Jung Woo, the seemingly ordinary breadwinner of a four-member family. [NETFLIX]

Director Kim Jin-woo’s “A Model Family” garnered anticipation before its release on Netflix Korea thanks to its comparisons to the popular Netflix original “Ozark” and American crime series “Breaking Bad.”
 
“A Model Family,” which was released on the streaming platform Friday, revolves around the seemingly ordinary “model” breadwinner of a four-member family named Dong-ha who is a part-time lecturer at a university. One day he comes across a car with two bags brimming with cash and two dead bodies in the front seats. At the edge of bankruptcy and with his family on the brink of falling apart, he decides to take the bloodstained money and ends up being thrust into a world of drug cartels.
 
Through Dong-ha, director Kim redefines the meaning of family and how a lack of communication can easily tip even the most tightly-knit unit of families to the edge of destruction.

Director Kim Jin-woo [NETFLIX]
Director Kim Jin-woo [NETFLIX]

Kim, who has heard the comparisons to “Ozark” and “Breaking Bad,” revealed during an online press interview Tuesday that he hasn’t seen either of the series.

“The [actual] film that I referenced was ‘Fargo’ [1996],” Kim explained. “The narratives behind the families [in the series] are complicated — it’s not the conventional mainstream story where the family, which ends up facing danger, ends up with a happy ending. The ending of the series is actually brutally realistic, and I wanted the audience to look back on the story and contemplate why the protagonists faced such problems: Was it because Dong-ha was an incapable provider for his family? Why did Gwang-cheol, the second-in-command of the drug cartel, feel betrayed by his group and how did the crime ring fall apart? Within the boundaries of what the characters deem a family, how did their relationships become estranged?”

Kim delves into the familial relationships centering around three protagonists: Dong-ha and his family — his wife Eun-joo, a teenage daughter and a sick son — related by blood; Gwang-cheol, an orphan and second-in-command of his drug cartel who considered the group to be his family; and police detective Joo-hyun, who once believed her organization was built through trust.

Gwang-cheol, portrayed by Park Hee-soon, is the second-in-command of his drug cartel. He feels like the group is his family, that is until he hears that his boss is about to betray him. [NETFLIX]
Gwang-cheol, portrayed by Park Hee-soon, is the second-in-command of his drug cartel. He feels like the group is his family, that is until he hears that his boss is about to betray him. [NETFLIX]

Throughout the interview, the director emphasized that what disrupts a family is a lack of communication, and each of the protagonists is all inexperienced at forming and maintaining family units.
 
“Take Dong-ha’s family for instance,” Kim said. “What Eun-joo found difficult in her familial relationship was that she lost herself while attempting to maintain her family. She was a person, with her own ambitions hoping to offer her own value to society, but she traded that for their children. Dong-ha, on the other hand, thinks her call for divorce is because he is financially incapable of providing for his family.”
 
Eun-joo ends up having an affair, but Kim asks the audience to refrain from judging her based on moral standards.

Eun-joo, Dong-ha’s wife portrayed by Yoon Jin-seo, gets involved in Dong-ha’s crime when she becomes desperate for cash for their sick son’s heart surgery. [NETFLIX]
Eun-joo, Dong-ha’s wife portrayed by Yoon Jin-seo, gets involved in Dong-ha’s crime when she becomes desperate for cash for their sick son’s heart surgery. [NETFLIX]

“She didn’t want to betray her family,” he explained. “She finally tells Dong-ha the truth in the 10th episode — that she became a nobody after she married Dong-ha. I believe that Eun-joo realized that after her affair, that her relationship with Dong-ha went sour because she didn’t tell, or didn’t know how to talk it out with her husband. What I wanted to emphasize through the affair was not betrayal. I wanted the audience to delve deeper into the reason why Eun-joo acted out, why she felt a sense of loss [even though she is technically part of a family].”

Kim also wanted to portray a uniqueness of a Korean family unit that he believes does not exist in other cultures.

“I think that our culture thinks of family differently [than others],” he said. “Even though we haven’t been taught, we inherently know that families are something that can’t easily be given up on. Family members unconditionally and instinctively are very attached to each other, even when their offspring grow into adults and move out of the home. Although each individual has their own wishes and goals, they sacrifice those for their families. In other cultures, for instance, the focus of the family is to raise offspring to ultimately have them become independent, but for us, on top of that we are more emotionally linked.”

Kim took particular care when it came to where the scenes were set in order to represent each character’s state of mind or emotions as they deliberate on their respective relationships.

“All of the characters are private about their thoughts instead of sharing them with others,” Kim said. “So finding the proper physical space or timing to portray their emotions was very important, because they don’t narrate their thoughts or actually say them — [the portrayal] relied on their facial expressions or the mood of the space. I deliberated on how I would be able to express the characters’ worries and troubles. The spaces could not be surreal, but couldn’t be too realistic either, so I relied heavily on the time of the day — that ambiguity of time when the sun has set, but it’s yet to be nighttime. Finding that timing was what could bring out the characters’ equally vague emotions.”

The director also mentioned negative reviews related to the series’ ambiguous ending, which implies that Dong-ha’s involvement in the drug cartel is not over.

 Police detective Joo-hyun, portrayed by Park Ji-yeon on right, is intent on finding a missing cop who was acting as an undercover spy in a drug cartel. She becomes convinced that Dong-ha is linked to the mysterious disappearance of Han-cheol. [NETFLIX]
Police detective Joo-hyun, portrayed by Park Ji-yeon on right, is intent on finding a missing cop who was acting as an undercover spy in a drug cartel. She becomes convinced that Dong-ha is linked to the mysterious disappearance of Han-cheol. [NETFLIX]

“It wasn’t necessarily about creating another season,” Kim said. “As we [writer Lee Jae-gon and I] worked on the script together, we each had a certain path set for Dong-ha, Gwang-cheol, and Joo-hyun. With that accomplished, we wanted to give the audience a glimpse into the people behind the actions — what kind of people would they be and they seem to have a huge influence on society, so we left a little room in the story for the extent that it doesn’t hurt the overall narrative.

“I’ve heard some comments that the ending was irresponsible, but I want to continue to create stories which will make viewers deliberate, to look back on their reality through the variety of narratives related to each character. I don’t think I’m the kind of person who can make content that veers people on the correct path or guides them on how they should live their lives. Although on the surface, the problem may seem simple, I want to continue to create content which we can think about together, without the story feeling too contrived.”

BY LEE JAE-LIM [lee.jaelim@joongang.co.kr]

More articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

spot_img

Latest news