An increasing number of Chinese and Japanese stars have signed to appear in Korean films. In Failan, Hong Kong top star Cecilia Cheung plays a Chinese woman of Korean descent named Failan who, after the death of her parents, comes to Korea to make a living. She pays for a fake marriage in order to obtain a working permit, but is then led unwitting into a bar to work as a prostitute. Only by some quick thinking is she able to escape her situation and find a job at a laundromat run by an old woman.
Meanwhile her legal husband, a third-rate gangster played by Choi Min-shik (Old Boy), is embroiled in troubles of his own. He dreams of returning to his hometown, but fights with fellow gang members as his life edges closer to collapse. One day, he receives a letter written in halting Korean from his wife, whom he has never met.
Watching the film develop is rather like discovering a diamond in the dust. The story provokes unexpected emotions, but the film is not ‘uplifting’ in the usual sense. Instead, it encourages us question feelings that we take for granted.
Director Song Hae-sung seems to have found himself in his second feature. His directorial style never overshadows the film, but it provides space for this remarkable story to develop. He also makes excellent use of Choi Min-shik, perhaps the most talented actor in Korea today.