This film was previously reviewed in October 2016 as part of our LFF coverage.

Both frothy and melancholy, The Bacchus Lady dives into its unexpected tale of one of South Korea’s infamous “Bacchus ladies” who witnesses a stabbing at her STI clinic and takes the perpetrator’s son under her wing, forming an “odd couple” bond.

Reveling in its black comedy and farcical elements, things take a delightfully morbid turn when So-young (Youn) visits a bed-bound client. One impulsive, empathetic action later, she has set off down a path of even greater ethical dilemmas.

Although mostly light-hearted, The Bacchus Lady still tackles the unpleasant underbelly of its content, but without mawkish over-emphasis. So-young’s trade doesn’t guarantee friendly clients, as a firm hand pushing down her head demonstrates. Racial tensions simmer, with half-Filipino Min-ho (Choi) labelled “kopino” and So-young’s past as an escort to American GIs touched upon. Again, though, to subvert these heavier moments, an enjoyable day-trip to gape at the North Korean border occurs.

Charming support is in supply from droll transgender landlady Tina (An A-zu) and lazy, puppyish amputee neighbour Do-hoon (Yoon Kye-sang), as they help the old lady juggle her trade (and keep her turf, dodge police raids and attempt to shake off an eager, rubber-necking documentarian), whilst looking after her unexpected young charge.

Young Yuh-jung displays gloriously unfussy and empathetic acting in the title role, where she could have license to go all out but keeps things restrained – and  much better for it. The only downside is a poignant but rushed denouement with loose ends tied together too abruptly.

The Bacchus Lady is a twist on the tale of a hooker with a heart of gold, and this time it’s a deliciously dark heart beating underneath all of its brushings-off. With a bold take on its attention-grabbing topic, it is not a piece that will fade into the background.



CAST: Youn Yuh-jung, Choi Hyun-jun, Chon Mu-song, Yoon Kye-sang, An A-Zu


WRITER: E J-yong

SYNOPSIS:  When his mother stabs a doctor in a vengeful rage, Min-ho (Choi) is picked up by So-young (Youn) outside the clinic and taken to her house, where she attempts to look after him, with help from her inappropriate neighbours, while juggling her daily hustle as a “Bacchus lady” prostitute.