Had Emily Watson’s stranger-shtupping martyr in Breaking the Waves woken up mid-boink one day and realized, Hey, hot sex with an anonymous cock donor beats the hell out of joyless self-sacrifice, the result might have been writer-director Gina Kim’s floridly plotted but acutely detailed erotic melodrama. In a worldlier (as in: of this world) variation on Watson’s self-abnegating holy innocent, Vera Farmiga plays a blue-eyed wraith whose successful Korean-American husband (David L. McInnis) attempts suicide over their failure to conceive. To save her spouse (or so she believes) and deflect his devout family’s withering scrutiny, she hires a dirt-poor Korean illegal (Jung-woo Ha, from Kim Ki-duk’s Time) to impregnate her on the down-low, offering $300 a pop with a hefty fertility bonus. The twists required to rig the movie’s romantic and emotional crises sound loony in synopsis, but Kim—a South Korean native who chronicled her tortuous American journey in Gina Kim’s Video Diary—focuses so fixedly on the particulars of gesture, transaction, and body language (especially hands) that she almost hides the blatant scaffolding in plain sight. The fearless, frequently nude Farmiga conveys the awakening of passion in a spectrum of small, subtle shadings; among other virtues—including Matthew Clark’s rapt camerawork—the movie has some of the hottest, most precisely modulated sex scenes since A History of Violence.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 8, 2008