White Mulberry Award for First Time Director Nominee
Please Don’t Save Me
나를 구하지 마세요 (Na-reul guhaji maseyo)
South Korea, 2020, 97’, Korean
Directed by: Jung Yeon-kyung
Script: Jung Yeon-kyung, Joo Young-ha
Photography (color): Kim Hyeong-gu
Editing: Park Gok-ji, Lee Yun-hee
Art Direction: Kang Dong-hun
Music: Byun Jun-seop
Producers: Jeong Sang-min, Oh Young-rim, Yu Hong-joon
Cast: Jo Seo-yeon (Sun-yu), Choi Ro-woon (Jeong-guk), Yang So-min (Na-hee), Seon Hoa (Jeong-guk’s mother), Lee Hwi-jong (teacher), Lee Seon-hee (In-gyeong)
Date of First Release in Territory: September 10th, 2020
At the age of 12, Sun-yu has already suffered more loss than most middle-aged adults have had to live through. Her father’s decision to kill himself leaves her awash in grief, and confused. Her mother decides that the two of them will move to a new city where nobody knows them. In this way Sun-yu enters a new school, and the other students are left to assume that her reserved, unsmiling manner is just an inherent part of her character.
One boy among her classmates takes special notice of her. Jeong-guk is seemingly opposite in every way to the soft-spoken Sun-yu. He fools around in class, and seems blissfully unaware of her subtle “leave me alone” vibe. But though she doesn’t realize it, Jeong-guk is exactly the kind of person that Sun-yu needs in her life. His steady presence gradually becomes something she can rely on.
But life doesn’t get any easier at home. Sun-yu’s mother is erratic in the best of times, and her desperate economic situation starts sliding from bad to worse. The pressure of unpaid debts and an unreliable job leave her more and more vulnerable to despair. And in no way does she try to shield any of this from Sun-yu. On the contrary: faced with her mother’s unfiltered emotions on a daily basis, Sun-yu starts to worry that her mom might make the same tragic choice as her dad.
Please Don’t Save Me is at times heartwarming and funny, effectively capturing the everyday life of its young heroine. Much of it takes place during the languid hours after school, when Sun-yu and Jeong-guk slowly start to become friends. The performances of the child actors Jo Seo-yeon and Choi Ro-woon are appealing and natural – more so than that of the adult actors, in fact. But the film carries a weight as well. Though it never tips over into being overbearing, viewers should expect to be carried through a wide range of emotions.
Director Jung Yeon-kyung says that she wrote this story after reading about an awful tragedy that took place in the city of Daegu involving a mother and her daughter. Please Don’t Save Me is not a dramatization of that story, but instead an effort on her part to work through the issues it raised, and to imagine another way that events might have played out. The end result is a memorable film that is unusual in tone. It is washed with the colors of mainstream entertainment, but it has a seriousness of purpose that is rare in films about 12-year old’s. In that sense it’s a hard movie to market, which, combined with the pandemic, meant that few people got to see it in Korea. But those who do seek it out are unlikely to regret the effort.
After serving as a script supervisor for Rikidozan (2004) and 200 Pound Beauty (2006), Jung worked on the production team of My New Partner (2007). In 2011 she shot the short film Mom Came Over the Sea, which won the audience award at the Tokyo-based Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia. Please Don’t Save Me is her feature film debut.
2020 – Please Don’t Save Me