Senior prostitution is a major issue in South Korean society. Despite being a rich country it has the highest senior poverty rate among the 35 country Organization for Economical Co operation and development. The result South Korean seniors doing what they can to make ends meet including begging, collecting scraps of paper, metals and bottles or prostitution. The man activity is illegal therefore the women sell an energy drink (Bacchus) to men to initiate conversation. Once the gentleman is engaged they offer sex for a nominal fee.
When we meet So-young (Youn Yuh-jung) she's at her doctor's office to obtain medication for a sexual disease. A violent event in the office leaves her in charge of a small boy. She brings him home and spreads his care amongst her building mates while she goes out to apply her trade at Jongno Park.
Director E J-yong's tale is raw frankly presenting the mechanical aspect of the job. The women compete for the attention of the older men. They often approach a potential client cold having to deal with lots of rejection. Their clients are not long term given their age, health issues and critical parts of anatomy starting to fail. The narrative incorporates a secondary story featuring a reporter doing a documentary on the Bacchus ladies zeroing in on So-young for an interview.
Youn Yuh-jing turns in a superior performance as the films protagonist. She is dignified despite her current predicament, goes beyond what's expected for her regulars and a very good friend to he neighbours in her complex. She takes in Min-ho even though she knows it will complicate her life. Her neighbours Tina (An-zu) and Do-hoon (Yoon Kye-sang) are also strong as a support network for So-young.
The Bacchus Lady is a melancholy story that shines a light on an important situation in Korean society. Their elder citizens do not receive enough support from a wealthy country forcing them to take desperate measures to make ends meet. The image that South Korea is a society that takes care of its elders is turned upside down by the production. They suffer from health issues and are often s so desperate that a drastic step may be their only solution. E-J-yong also takes a shot at the loose behaviour that results in mixed offspring. It's an important piece of filmmaking that I can recommend.
*** 1/2 Out of 4.
The Bacchus Lady | E J-yong | South Korea | 2016 | 110 Minutes.
Tags: Senior Citizens, Bacchus, Prostitution, Jongno Park, Korean-Filipino, Korean-African American.