Shamelessly indulging in genre cliches, Christine Ko’s twisty thriller, THE WOMAN IN THE WHITE CAR, finds new ways to turn itself on its head.
Originally conceived as a short, two-part TV drama, Christine Ko makes her feature film debut with THE WOMAN IN THE WHITE CAR, a twisty thriller that centres around three women.
The film opens with a frantic young woman arriving at Seolwon hospital by car, carrying a limp body. Do-kyung (Jung Ryeowon) claims that the unconscious woman is her sister, who has been stabbed in a violent attack by her controlling fiancé. Sergeant Hyun-ju (Lee Jung-eun) is called to investigate, but as she delves deeper into the story, she quickly realizes that there is more to the case than she originally thought.
On the surface, there is lots to like about THE WOMAN IN THE WHITE CAR. Shamelessly indulging in genre cliches, Ko plays on a series of contradictory flashbacks, each one seeming more credible than the last, to deliver a twisty thriller that keeps finding new ways to turn itself on its head.
Much of its success lies in the superb performances of its three female leads. Lee Jung-eun of PARASITE fame delivers a strong central performance as Hyun-ju, the kind-hearted small-town cop with a razor-sharp mind. Throughout the film, Hyun-ju peforms her task indifferently like a machine, but when she arrives at the hospital, she finds empathy with Do-kyung as a fellow victim of domestic violence and immerses himself in the case.
Jung Ryeowon gives a rare and surprisingly credible portrayal as Do-kyung, Her convincing and layered performance is vital to the film’s success as the young woman with schizophrenia who is unable to recall the events of the evening.
A special mention must also go to Jang Jin-hee as Mi-kyeong, the young woman who is brought into the hospital as Do-kyung sister, who impresses in a smaller yet compelling role.
Yet, THE WOMAN IN THE WHITE CAR isn’t without its flaws. The Rashomon-like way in which plausible alternatives are presented is one that requires your full attention. Here, Ko piles twist onto twist that you easily get lost under the weight of the events.
The film could also benefit from some tighter editing. Originally conceived as a short, two-part TV drama, THE WOMAN IN THE WHITE CAR was re-edited into a film format to allow for its submission to this year’s film festivals, yet it still feels distinctly disjointed, with events leading to a climax in the first half, only to lose momentum again in the second.
That said, THE WOMAN IN THE WHITE CAR is a thriller full of twists and turns that go beyond its many genres troupes to delve into the psychology of these women. It also goes some way to exploring the serious discussion of familial violence and the blurry way it embeds itself in memory.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.