Even though Kim Ki-duk was involved in this movie, I initially had little interest in watching due to the premise which sounded kinda hokey to me. But I decided to go for it anyway since it was convenient and did not regret it. The film is about a seemingly perfect family but in reality they are North Korean spies who assassinate defectors from their country. When they’re not doing that they must deal with the South Korean family next door who constantly argue and bicker. They initially dislike the family, seeing them as the end product of evil capitalism but they begin to feel envious of them because the spies themselves are separated from their own families. They even meet up with the other family and the fake family of spies themselves begin to form their own family-like bonds. This does not sit well with their “shadows”, other higher level North Korean spies whom spy on the spies.
I would never have thought a film with such a premise would have so much to say about family. None of it is really new but each spy has a different situation and thus different concerns. The “grandfather” and the “daughter” are the most interesting and sympathetic, mainly because they each form bonds with their counterparts in the neighbor’s family. The “wife,” who is the head spy, probably goes through the largest change but it seems a bit a abrupt because unlike the other members she at first really does appear to be all gung-ho about the serving the cause. The “husband” was the least interesting to me as he mainly serves as an important plot point.
There are bits of humour at first but the story is a serious one and at times too obvious in its messages. The spy who is the “daughter” at one point makes a rather long speech about what the two Koreas should be doing during a dinner with the neighbors where everybody talks about North Korea. Although there are moments of danger and real emotion, I feel like the film often lacked impact in these key scenes. It’s hard to describe exactly why. I don’t think it was the acting but perhaps the camera angles or scene composition. It just felt like really important yet different moments tone-wise all felt the same and strangely dulled when they should be amplifying a particular feeling in the viewer. Still, it’s not a large flaw and overall I found the film quite engaging with all the conflicting loyalties to one’s country and to one’s own morality.