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My First Client: A Korean Masterpiece On Child Abuse



My First Client

My First Client(South  Korean with English subtitles)

A success-hungry lawyer meets a young sister and brother suffering from domestic abuse and digs into their case.

Rating: **** ½

My First Client Review: Films about child abuse are not infrequent  from Korea. In this country, violence against  children,  most of it perpetrated by parents,  is  not uncommon.  Director  Jang Gyu-Sung(whose last film I Am The King was  as  different  from  this as Meryl Streep from Whoopi Goldberg)  takes us into one such  incident  and  leaves us as battered as  the two little children  whom I just wanted to yank out of their fiendish mother’s brutal clutches  and  bring  them  home.

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Be warned.  My First Client is  not an  easy film to watch. The director doesn’t not dissolve  the issue into an easily soluble pill. Indeed  the  violence against the two little  siblings in this  film will haunt you for days as will their determination to  stay united as fate deals them a barrage  of blows.

I saw   My First Client 24 hours ago and I haven’t been able to   sleep. How can  adults  do such  unthinkable things to vulnerable  children  scaring and scarring them, physically and  emotionally  for life?

 Jang Gyu-Sung’s script is  fabulously  formulistic. It does get over-dramatic  at times. But the  core of  the  theme  remains untarnished by  compromise. A  young lazy  lawyer Jung-Yeob (Lee Dong-Hwi) who  wants nothing except to lead a good life  by working in a posh law firm , comes of ‘rage’ when  he befriends  two  siblings 10-year-old Da-Bin (Choi Myung-Bin) and her kid-brother  Min-Joon (Lee Joo-Won).It is obvious to  Jung-Yeob that the two children are being  regularly abused  by their stepmother  JiSook (Yoo-Sun) . But he  conveniently abandons  them  and leaves  the  city.

What  happens  next shakes the audience as  much  as  it shakes  Jung-Yeob. The  narrative  builds into  a stunning courtroom finale  where  I found myself crying and clapping like  a madman. Also, wondering how audiences loudly would applaud  when  the lawyer-hero turns  to  the monster  mother and  spits out, “You call yourself a mother? You are  not  even a  human being.”

Jung-Yeob finds  his conscience.When will  societies that  perpetrate  violence against the vulnerable, find theirs?  My First Client leaves us with many questions about  the laws and  state policies that  allow parents  to  “discipline” their children  by thrashing them. It also leaves us with visual images(scintillating and yet docu-real cinematography  by Jo Jung-Hee) that will linger  in our heads  forever.

My  favourite  image is  that of Jung-Yeob breaking  into the scene of domestic  violence with a hammer and  walking out with the  battered  bloodied  girl on his  back as neighbours stare. Goosebumps!  Jung-Yeob who has so far done only  secondary  parts, rises to the occasion creating a hero who  doesn’t fly in a cape. He isn’t  interest  in saving the world. He  just  saves the life of one little girl.

The two child actors  are beyond wonderful.And if  10-year old  Choi Myung-Bin doesn’t make you cry in her courtroom breakdown sequence then  you probably don’t have a heart. Yoo-Sun as  the monster  mother is  so  brilliant I would  probably throttle  her with my bare hands if I ran  into her.

 My First Client is  not a great  film because it tackles such  a  relevant sensitive issue. It is a  great  film because  it has a riveting   survival  story  to tell. The conscience is  the true  hero of this unforgettable film.  My First Client’s awakening is   magically potent in  the narrative . You will search  for your conscience  after seeing  My First Client. That’s a promise.

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