The Anchor (2022) ☆☆☆(3/4): An anchor in crisis

South Korean film “The Anchor” is another typical woman-in-crisis flick, but it did the job a bit better than expected. Although the story becomes a little too contrived during its last act in my humble opinion, the movie mostly works on the whole thanks to not only its competent handling of mood and tension but also the strong performance from its lead performer, who is incidentally one of the best South Korean actresses at present.

Chun Woo-hee, who has been more prominent thanks to her unforgettable breakthrough performance in “Han Gong-ju” (2013), plays Se-ra, a young woman working as a prominent TV news anchor of some major broadcast company. During the early part of the film, we see how much she is dedicated to her profession, and we also observe how lonely she also is. While there are not many people close to her at her workplace, her fund manager husband is frequently absent at their supposedly luxurious apartment, and her mother So-jeong (Lee Hye-young) seems to be the only person constantly around her in her private life, though she does not bring much comfort to her daughter as often talking about how Se-ra must work harder for her career advance.

On one day, something odd happens when Se-ra is preparing for her latest TV broadcast as usual. A woman calls and then demands that she should talk with Se-ra on the phone, and Se-ra reluctantly agrees to talk a bit with this strange woman. While this strange woman tells everything about who she is and where she is living with her young daughter, she seems rather unhinged to Se-ra, so Se-ra simply disregards her even though this woman says she is terrorized by someone who tried to break into her residence.

Although she thought it was just a prank call, Se-ra does not feel that right about that caller, so she decides to check out where that caller supposedly resides, and it soon turns out that caller was really desperate at that time. While horrified by what she has just discovered, Se-ra also sees an opportunity to boost her career further, and she certainly does not disappoint herself and others at her workplace as diligently reporting this tragic incident.

However, as she delves more into this incident for reporting anything good enough to draw more viewers out there, Se-ra finds herself increasingly disturbed by what she saw at that caller’s residence, which seems to awake something hidden somewhere inside her mind. She begins to experience a series of disturbing hallucinations for no apparent reason, and that naturally influences not only her work but also her relationships with her husband and mother. While he is mostly occupied with his work as usual, her husband is not so pleased about how much they have been estranged from each other, and her mother, who has clearly lived for her daughter’s success, strongly advises as usual that she must put her career above anything else.

And then there comes a questionable psychiatrist one of whose patients was incidentally that caller in question. After their first encounter under a rather suspicious circumstance, Se-ra begins to suspect this psychiatrist, and it seems that there is something shady about this psychiatrist. For example, one of his other patients died under a mysterious situation around 10 years ago, and Se-ra becomes more convinced that he is hiding something from her after she approaches to him again for more information.

And that is where we become more aware of how unreliable our heroine’s viewpoint is. As Se-ra becomes more disturbed by those seemingly inexplicable hallucinations, her boss decides to replace her with some younger anchor, and that naturally gives her more anxiety and stress. For getting to know what the hell is going around her, she eventually decides to let herself go through a hypnosis session under that psychiatrist, but that only makes her more confused and agitated than before for some unknown reason.

You can easily guess the answer to her mystery if you are a seasoned moviegoer like me, but the movie keeps things rolling as before, and you may forgive how the screenplay by director/writer Jung Ji-yeon cheats us a bit during its finale. Although the climactic part feels overlong, it is still held well together by its emotional intensity, and the movie also makes some good point on sexism and discrimination.

Above all, Chun Woo-hee’s believable performance steadily carries the film to the end, and she is also supported well by two good performers revolving around her. While Shin Ha-kyun looks suitably untrustworthy in his substantial supporting role, Lee Hye-young is as coldly demanding as required by her part, and she is particularly effective when her character shows more of how much she clings onto her daughter’s success for many years.

Overall, “The Anchor” will not surprise you that much if you are familiar with its genre territory, but it is a still solid thriller film with enough enjoyable elements besides another commendable performance from its lead actress, and Jung Ji-yeon, who previously made several short films, made a nice feature film debut here. I saw through it from the beginning, but I was entertained at least, so I will not grumble for now.

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