Gamhee (Kim Minhee) visits three friends in Seoul, South Korea whilst her husband is away on business. In each meandering conversation that ensues, the repeated urban tale of a woman who ran keeps coming up. With all of their lives indirectly intersecting, each woman holds a piece of director Hong Sangsoo‘s slight minimalist puzzle.
...a mundane slice of life punctured with occasional moments of hilarity.
Following the wanderings of Kim Minhee’s Gamhee, ‘Domangchin yeoja / The Woman Who Ran’ is a slight tale, which could have easily been adapted for radio. In long, rambling bursts of small talk between the movie’s cast nothing much happens. Apples are sliced, gardens are visited, relationships are discussed and food consumed. Interrupting these discourses, men are by turn comic and romantically toxic doorbell calls. In one scene where a new neighbour (Shin Seokho) calls to complain about how the women are feeding stray “robber” cats and how it frightens his wife, is given a hilariously polite rebuttal. By the scene’s end, the camera zooms in on a very well-fed cat, who inadvertently owns the scene and earns a well-deserved round of applause from the audience at the Berlinale premiere.
Camera moves, in particular, are kept to a bare minimum with director Hong Sangsoo favouring a locked-off composition where each woman looks across at each other from the opposite side of the frame. However, as a device to draw more attention to the dialogue, this approach quickly becomes soporific. With each scene ending with a slow pan upwards to the landscape, the mundanity of Gamhee’s friendly pilgrimages is similarly underscored. On the few occasions that the film threatens to break out into something approaching melodrama, Hong Sangsoo decides to zoom in. Like when the lingering hand of cinema manager Woojin (Kim Saebyuk) brought into close focus on Gamhee’s knees, this and other moments are deliberately left to hang.
Finally settling on a static conclusion and no friends to visit or chapters of her past to bump into, Gamhee settles in front of a peaceful conclusion. With no pay-offs to satisfy or character arcs to complete ‘Domangchin yeoja / The Woman Who Ran’ becomes a mundane slice of life punctured with occasional moments of hilarity.