Innocent Witness (Jeungin, 증인)

Innocent Witness is a Korean crime drama film directed by Lee Han. Starring Jung Woo-sung as Yang Sun-ho, the film follows a former human-rights lawyer struggling to adjust to the bigger law firm he has now joined in order to afford to repay his family debts and take care of his father.

With one case away from being promoted to partner at the law firm, Sun-ho takes on a case where carer, Oh Mi-Ran played by Yum Hye-Ran, is accused of murdering her elderly employer Mr. Kim. Witnessing the crime from her bedroom in her home across the road, autistic high school girl Im Ji-Woo played by Kim Hyang-Gi is the sole witness to the crime. It is Sun-ho’s job to defend Mi-Ran and convince the jury that the death of Mr. Kim was a suicide.

As Ji-Woo is the only witness to the crime, Sun-ho takes it upon himself to try get to know her, so that during court, he’d be able to communicate with Ji-Woo properly, despite her autism, because she would be familiar with him.

Jung Woo-sung is excellent in his role as Sun-ho. Sun-ho, despite being part of an infamous law firm who is intent on getting his hands dirty, has a massive moral compass. This is because not only of his previous role as a human-rights lawyer, but Sun-ho, despite his occupation, clings to the hope of seeing the good in all people. I guess you could say, perhaps being a lawyer isn’t best suited to a character that is so kind. But Sun-ho has trouble has not only adjusting to his high paying job, but with his own confidence and identity.

Park Geun-Hyung who plays Sun-ho’s father Kil-Jae, knows that his son is having an internal struggle, and longs for his son to find love. He even goes far to advise his son that he doesn’t mind if he finds a woman, a man, single or divorced and with a child – just as long as he is happy. I honestly loved Park Geun-Hyung in this film who was delightful and funny. Even though he didn’t have much screen time, he was is still a very important character, being the constant source of love for main character, Sun-ho.

Sun-ho grows more as character, not necessarily changing into a new person, but remembering who he is supposed to be, when his unlikely friendship with Ji-Woo develops. Jung Woo-Sung and Kim Hyang-Gi have amazing chemistry on-screen together. I love Kim Hyangi-Gi’s portrayal of Ji-Woo who appears smart, pure and innocent. I also felt that the film was a good step forward into understanding mental disorder, although I would like to think that audiences would be open-minded and not just assume that all folk under the autism spectrum act this way (like Ji-Woo’s character), as it differs.

Innocent Witness has a narrative that tells the story consistently, providing the subplots of the character relationships and keeping the momentum of suspense. Equipped with talented actors, likable characters and a mystery to solve, I genuinely adored this film and found myself getting a bit teary at the end in the climatic moment of Soon-Ho and Ji-Woo’s friendship. Innocent Witness is entertaining, captivating, impressive and I’m really glad I got to see this one on the big screen.

Innocent Witness was screened in Melbourne as part of the Korean Film Festival.

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