In a vast apartment complex in Korea, a resident is displeased with the cigarette smoke which seeps through a vent in her bathroom from the apartment below. She has a young daughter, and appeals to her neighbour to stop putting their health in jeopardy. When she visits the home of the smoker, she has a strange interaction which begins to unravel her sanity and her idea of what is real and what is not.
The Lady From 406, directed by Kyoung-mi Lee, is at once a psychological thriller and also a somewhat confusing study of grief and madness. Whilst the story is clearly what goes on underneath, it is particularly difficult to follow what is actually going on. Whether intentional or not, the story line is incredibly confusing, especially once the main character (Yeong-ae Lee) begins to descend into some sort of madness. She may be unstable herself, but this fact does not take away the almost detrimentally complicated plot.
The lead role is played well by Yeong-ae, but by the end of the film, we are none the wiser as to her circumstances. It is difficult to grasp her relationship with not only the residents of the apartment below, but also the unusual ‘teachers’ that appear at her apartment, and who she calls for reassurance when in a state. Her understated and impressive performance doesn’t quite make up for the gaps in the plot and the lack of clarity when it comes to what is actually happening to her.
What it lacks in clear storyline is somewhat compensated for in the beautiful camerawork. Filmed in Korea, the shots have a sort of humid quality to them, with the dull colours of the apartment complex making us feel as claustrophobic and trapped as the main character.
The film succeeds in leaving you disoriented and confused, but almost to its disadvantage. It is no doubt a compelling idea, but in the end, this film needed a more apparent storyline, as the lack thereof actually takes away from the enjoyment of what is clearly a well acted and well directed piece of work.
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