At eleven years of age, Jae-Su, played by Kim Young Chan, has been through stepmother after stepmother–ten of them, to be exact. None of them have actually been official stepmothers; these were just women that the good-f0r-nothing father brought home and ordered him to call “mom”. His biological mother seems to have died earlier on and is never shown in the film.
Just as the neighbors are asking what became of his tenth stepmother who just took off, yet again, the father brings home yet another woman.
We never actually learn the name of the character that Kim Hye Soo plays. She is just the woman that enters their lives, which is rather befitting in that she’s also lived her life without much of an identity. She was apparently a hostess at a gentlemen’s bar, a prostitute of sorts, and has had other roles in life–none of them pleasant.
She’s ragged and bitter, cold and detached. She’s overly made up like a prostitute with a wig on and ridiculously vibrantly-colored out of style clothing. She’s rough around the edges, and speaks without manners or any formalities. Then, when she gets comfortable and lays down at the home, she’s void of all makeup and has the messiest hair. All she does is lay around and when she does do something, it involves food or stealing food from the poor kid who is using food stamps to feed himself because his father is basically not present.
And if Jae-Su is not pleased to see his next “mother” — she seems even less pleased to see a child in her new abode.
What’s interesting about Eleventh Mom is first, that Kim Hye Soo took this role. As the story goes, she actually read the script while she was filming a different movie, and liked it so much that she approached the director about being cast in the role. It’s not strange the the director never considered her for the role, as customarily, Kim Hye Soo is an actress that has played more glamorous and powerful roles. Being taller and more voluptuous than the average Korean celebrity, she’s always been cast into roles where he looked more of the part.
The fact that she’s playing such a broken character is part of what makes Eleventh Mom interesting. And her voluntary involvement in the film production is what kept Eleventh Mom funded and afloat. With her being cast as the lead, investors and actors began to line up to be a part of the film.
“Hollywood actors don’t always star in blockbusters. It’s just that only the blockbusters are shown here in Korea. A-list stars like Nicole Kidman and Kevin Spacey appear in independent films as well. If I really want to work on something… even if the money’s not that good, good experiences can be just as valuable. And I’m thirsty for some good projects,” she tells Donga Ilbo in an interview.
I watched it just to see how she pulls it off. And I have to say, she did a great (and believable) job in the role.
While she was the abrupt and cold prostitute, she was effectively rude and unlikable.
When she begins to like Jae-Soo, she seamlessly transforms before your eyes into a grief-stricken yet warm and loving person who has just been deprived of care and affection in her life.
The main appeal of Eleventh Mom is the phenomenal acting between Kim Hye Su and Kim Young Chan, the kid.
They are playing two characters, desperate in their own ways. Both of them have been deprived of some or all of the things that a regular person is entitled to in life: a parent who cares and someone to take care of them when they’re in need.
Over time, they identify each other as the world’s most pitiful people — but that is also when they connect. Each is the only person the other considers worse-off than themselves.
There’s also some nice dynamics between the loser neighbor guy and the pitiful stepmother.
It’s a bit funny. It’s a bit dark. And it’s sometimes terribly sad.
But it’s ultimately a film that shows us how very little we actually need to have it all in life…and how desperately and fervently we all need just a little love and a little care.
Here’s the full movie. Feel free to watch and let us know how you liked it in the comments!