Motherhood, careers and social expectation clash for one newsreader in Jung Ji-yeon’s tense psycho-thriller.
“She’s doing the news now.”
Se-ra (Chun Woo-hee) is a news anchor whose career is going about as well as her home life is not. She’s going through a divorce, and lives alone while her husband travels for work – though she is occasionally visited by her overbearing and commanding mother So-jeong (Lee Hye-young). One evening, she receives a tip from a single mother worried about her safety and that of her daughter. Se-ra ignores it to do her broadcast, but when she goes to investigate later, discovers the mother hanged and the daughter drowned.
Wracked with guilt over the deaths, Se-ra’s investigations lead her to psychiatrist In-ho (Shin Ha-kyun). His presence at the deaths of multiple women leads Se-ra into her own investigation, all while she attempts to keep her home and work life balanced. And also there’s a major third act reveal whose blaringly evident announcement happens within the first few minutes.
Yeah, it’s a shame that this big moment is in the film at all, as I spent a lot of the energy I wanted to spend on investing myself emotionally instead on figuring out whether we were being double bluffed or not. Every so often the movie did something that made me doubt myself, but by the time it happened, the cinema I was in was oddly quiet during the moment the film paused for gasps.
Thankfully, Anchor’s entire existence doesn’t hinge on the twist. It’s more of a cherry on top of what is a solid psychological thriller – and one with more than a couple of things to say about women’s roles in modern Korean society. It seems impossible to be a career woman with children. These effects are most evidently seen with So-jeong, who was once a newscaster like her daughter, but whose pregnancy meant an end to that life, and the start of one she still resents Se-ra for.
These anxieties that Se-ra faces are the film’s true focus. She isn’t just haunted by the single mother whose body she found, but also by her own conflicted feelings of having a family and by her increasingly volatile mother living through her. It doesn’t help that in her industry, there’s always somebody ready and waiting to snatch her position as the channel nine anchor the second she starts to show signs of instability. These stresses dominate the movie’s atmosphere and suffocate Se-ra, and can only result in her taking action, or snapping.
Director Jung Ji-yeon instils the film with what I can only guess are some of her own experience as a woman working in media. As a result, the story – while occasionally fantastical its telling – is strikingly real. She accompanies these real issues with eerie hypnosis and scenes of heightened psychological turmoil, resulting in something that borders on a horror film at times. Her reality, and occasional lack thereof, will resonate with a lot of women in not just Korea but around the world as well. Sure it might hiccup from time to time, but even the best newsreaders stumble their lines.
Verdict: An overly obvious third act twist does little to dampen the emotional and social punches that Anchor delivers.
Director: Jung Ji-yeon
Writer: Jung Ji-yeon
Chun Woo-hee – Jung Se-ra
Shin Ha-kyun – In-ho
Lee Hye-young – Lee So-jeong
Cha Rae-hyung – Min Ki-tae
Park Ji-hyun – Seo Seung-ah
Im Seong-jae – Detective Kim