In-hye and Sun-mi visit their hometown, a small and quiet village in the countryside, after a long time only to face unexpected news: their old friend Eun-sil died while giving birth. The town is left in an uproar because of the baby, whose father is unknown, and it is neglected, protected by no one. While In-hye and Sun-mi try to save the baby with the help of Ji-young, their friend who has stayed in town, they find out that Eun-sil, who was mentally retarded, was a plaything of the village. In-hye and Sun-mi are troubled with the rage they feel against the village people and the guilty conscience they feel towards Eun-sil. Although they abandoned Eun-sil in the past, will they be able to protect her baby until the end?
Eun-sil-i is an uncomfortable korean animation film. It is intentionally uncomfortable as it covers very serious topics- but I found its execution and overall premise to be seriously lacking. There will be minor spoilers in this review.
The movie opens up with a young girl being pronounced dead after giving birth to her child- a baby covered in blood is brought by a boy who discovers the dead body. As the movie goes on- it deals with both the present day town and how they are treating the baby of the dead mother, as well as going into the past and revealing memories of Eun-sil,
the girl who died while giving birth.
While not immediately apparent at the start of the film, unless you read the plot summary beforehand, Eun-sil is mentally retarded. She befriends the main character in the movie, though they eventually get into an argument. My main issue with the scene that deals with this argument is that it seems out of character. The main character seems to overall be very kind of Eun-sil and shows great generosity, yet out of nowhere she finally decides she has enough with the slowness of Eun-sil and they argue.
Eun-sil is taken advantage by several men of the village and a number of them rape her- a few short scenes occur while the rape is happening, but it would not be surprising if just about every guy in town had their way with Eun-sil since they knew they could. While this rape is a major focus in the show, it seems like it was done unrealistically. In fact- all the characters and how evil they are is pretty unrealistic.
Not only do a number of men, including someone from Eun-sil's school- a fellow classmate, rape her: but there are witnesses to many of the rapes by fellow classmates. No one does anything and it doesn't seem that anyone really cares save for maybe 2 women in the entire town. Every character, except for Eun-sil and another girl that gets taken advantage of, is uncharacteristically evil. I just cannot wrap my head around the idea that an entire town in Korea would be okay with raping a mentally disabled young girl, but that after she gives birth to her child they care little about the child's well-being and wish for it to be dead (with many attempts to kill the baby having taken place in the movie). It is just not believable.
Perhaps the attempted killing of the baby is done by certain women in the film because they know about the rape and believe that by killing the baby they will have put this whole Eun-sil thing to rest for good. But I just don't buy that people would actually act this way. And while not all anime have to be realistic- there is nothing to suggest that this town is some sort of cult or that there are supernatural elements to this world. It is unusual for me to see people behave this way and it definitely took me out of the film, and the shocking scenes just kept coming- which made it lose its impact on me every time.
At the end of this movie I'm just left wondering "why". There is no real resolution to this film, nothing you'd really call an impactful "ending". Nothing is really solved at the end- everyone in the town is still shitty, the main character of the film and her friend end up moving back to Seoul- leaving the town for good. I'm just not sure if this movie really had a message. It is a story of an abused mentally ill girl- and goes into great detail of the abuse- but that is all it is. No one is really held accountable for the abuse, no good comes out of the abuse (or nothing bad either). The story just does not really go anywhere meaningful.
I give this a 4/10. I would call this a bad movie, but I appreciate it attempting to tackle difficult issues. It is definitely a unique watch.