Movie Review: Blood and Ties

By Yvonne Lo

“Blood and Ties” is about a loving father, Son-Man (Kim Kap-soo), who loves his daughter, Da-Eun (Son Ye-Jin), unconditionally. But things start to fall apart when the Da-Eun goes to the movies to watch a film based on a real-life, unsolved crime. A man who had kidnapped a boy demanded a ransom from the parents. The child was later found dead, and the killer was never heard from again. The only clue the police have of the killer’s identity is the phone call he made to the parents issuing the ransom. At the end of the film, the recorded audio from the phone call was played. Da-Eun becomes frozen with recognition; the killer’s voice from 15 years ago sounds eerily like her father’s, and he also uses the phrase “It isn’t over ‘till it’s over,” a phrase her father always said when she was growing up. With only a few days remaining before the statute of limitations closes the case for good, Da-Eun is torn between her suspicions and her love for the man who has raised her. What will Da-Eun do?

The South Korean film “Blood and Ties” probably resonates strongly in its home country, where the central basis of the plot has had well-known, real-life parallels like the Hwaseong serial killings. But by the standards of American thrillers, it was mostly an unconvincing and predictable melodrama to the end. There was only one interesting plot twist, where the title “Blood and Ties” is explained. You’ll have to watch it to understand it.

The father-daughter relationship between Da-eun and her father, Son-Man, was a special bond. He would braid her hair while he helped her with her spelling. It was an irreplaceable love, one that had little Da-Eun write, “One day I will marry daddy”. On the corner of the screen, a countdown timer appears: the days and hours until the statute of limitations expires, until D-day arrives. Fifteen years later, Da-Eun is at a cafe preparing for a crucial job exam to be a reporter with her friends. They decide to go to the movies after, where they hear a familiar voice on screen. Da-Eun is frozen in fear; is it her father’s voice? Did her father commit the crime from 15 years ago? She goes home, finds the audio online, and puts the recording on loop. It couldn’t be her father. The man who she loved and raised her with a gentle smile—it couldn’t be him. Then one day, a mysterious man appears and recognizes her and her father by name. He asks Da-Eun to deliver a number to Son-Man. Son-Man calls the mysterious man and is blackmailed. One night, Son-Man and Da-Eun celebrate their mother’s birthday in front of her shrine at home. Knock, knock. The mysterious man enters the house and sees the food prepared in front of the shrine. He chuckles. He looks at Son-Man and blackmails him again. If Son-Man doesn’t give him money, he will tell Da-Eun everything, the truth about her mother and the secret that Son-Man holds. Son-Man immediately tackles the man and Da-Eun is petrified. It was a completely different side of her father, a dark one. What secret is her father keeping? What about her mother? Who is this mysterious man? What is his affiliation with her father? Is her father the kidnapper from 15 years ago?

The director, Kook Dong-seok, has a decent suspense dynamic working early, but the closer the deadline comes, the sillier things become. It had a promising start, with the storyline was going well, and the actors held a phenomenal performance, but in the end, the movie doesn’t provide the closure needed and fails to give a certain feeling of satisfaction.

The movie mainly focuses on Da-Eun and the way she handles her suspicions. We do not get a lot of explanation of Son-Man’s character and past; we only know what Da-Eun discover. The things we know about Son-Man are only discovered through the mysterious man. A lot of background story is revealed, yet they leave plot holes and confusion.

The acting in this movie was a performance well-done. The fear and sadness Son-Ye Jin portrays is clear; the feelings and thoughts that the characters are going through is performed beautifully. Kim-Kap Soo does a phenomenal job keeping the mystery alive: was he the killer or is he being framed? You would think the acting would give it away, but it doesn’t.

Find out why the film is called “Blood and Ties” and if Kim-Kap Soo did it. Remember, “It isn’t over ‘til it’s over.”

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