Year: 2001
Director: Jeong Jae-eun
Screenplay/Story: Jeong Jae-eun
Cinematography: Choi Young-hwan
Music score: M&F
Cast: Bae Doo-na, Lee Yo-won, Ok Ji-young, Lee Eun-shil, Lee Eun-jo, Oh Tae-kyung
Runtime: 112 min
Trailer: on YouTube

Seen at a screening on September 8, 2011 at the Korean Cultural Centre UK in London.

Take Care of My Cat is one of those gentle, subtle films that capture something – an intrinsic feeling, a certain moment in every human’s life time – so well that they stay longer with the viewer than any flashy big-budget flick. The film, unpretentious as it is, did not do well at the box office but was positively received by critics and won a number of awards at film festivals around the world.Take Care of My Cat opens without music, something that feels slightly awkward and lets viewers know immediately that this is an original work of art. We see five friends – Hae-ju, Ji-yeong, Tae-hee and the twins Ohn-jo and Bi-ryu – taking commemorative pictures as they have just graduated from their high school in Incheon and are savouring the last moments of the familiar. They are eager and ready to take on what comes next – adult life – but as yet unaware that everything will change from now on: their daily routines, their interactions and even their friendship.

Hae-ju (Lee Yo-won) has found a job in Seoul and is thus the first to fly the nest. She is confident and full of determination about who she wants to become, and very willing to leave everything behind for this – including her friends. The other girls are less certain: Tae-hee (Bae Du-na) is lucky enough to come from a middle-class background and lives reasonably well for the moment while working for her father. However, she does not get on with her family and is restless, as well as sensitive enough to notice that things are changing, particularly with Ji-yeong (Ok Ji-yeong). Ji-yeong is the artistic one of the group and struggles from the start. She has no job prospects and, having been orphaned, lives with her old, frail grandparents in a dilapidated house whose roof is at the verge of collapsing. Ji-yeong has nothing and feels increasingly distant from her friends. Her depression becomes more and more apparent as the film develops, and when tragedy strikes, she unsurprisingly shuts down completely. Finally, there are the half-Chinese twins, Bi-ryu (Lee Eun-shi) and Ohn-jo (Lee Eun-jo), who always come as a pair and play a somewhat more minor role in the film.

The cinematography of Take Care of My Cat presents an Incheon that is desolate, gritty and not a very inspiring place to be, certainly not for a group of young girls on the brink of adulthood and keen on discovering the zest of life. Images presented can be dark and even moody, but at the same time there is a certain beauty to them. They certainly convey the sudden emptiness that arises and must be surmounted after structured childhood years.

It is not an emptiness that can be easily – or even permanently – overcome, and the film’s open ending suggests as much. What the girls learn is that we can never exactly know what life has in store for us: what comes next is simply what comes next, whether we planned it or not.

Rating: 9/10