A Hong Sang-soo film, like a ceiling mobile, turns in the gentlest stir of air or happenstance. In Nobody’s Daughter Haewon the heroine is a pensive, garrulous, melancholy-at-times film student. All contradictions, she is played with restless stillness by the beautiful Jeong Eun-Chae. She is also an emotional orphan seeking surrogate parents. Mum goes to Canada in reel one; dad is missing, presumed peripheral. Haewon is distancing herself, or trying, from her married professor-lover (Seon-gyun Lee). Her closest thing to a new romance is a five-minute chat in a bar with another older teacher, a Korean on leave from San Diego.
Hong’s films – a dozen before this – win festival prizes but travel little to world cinemas. They’re a taste worth acquiring. Nobody’s Daughter has a lovely sense of a life lived between reveries. Haewon’s diary entries are the thoughts she daydreams and even falls asleep over, while her waking life picks up the oneiric tropes and patterns. Three times she/we walk over the same discarded cigarette in a park, a talisman of unfulfilled romance. (It’s that of a briefly encountered “cute” stranger.) Lovers’ quarrels echoingly repeat themselves in the old fort serving as a trysting point. The film is teasing, poignant, enigmatic. Think of Eric Rohmer, add sadness, set in Seoul.