Sang-soon begins his film by characterizing his lead character as one who is not easily moved – a suicide occurs in the middle of a busy Korean commercial center, with Eun-Yi (Jeon Do-yeon) not being fazed by the event, instead hoping to catch a glimpse of the corpse. Eun-Yi leaves her job at a restaurant and takes the housemaid position for an extremely rich family. Quiet and subdued, Eun-Yi manages to fit in rather well within the confines of the household. However, she quickly becomes entangled in a sexual relationship with the head of the household, as the man’s wife is pregnant expecting twins.
The Housemaid subscribes to a plethora of melodramatic clichés, with Sang-soon framing the whole film as distinguished pulp. It works, to a degree, as there’s a sustainable level of eroticism that reminded me a bit of Brian De Palma’s more lurid films of the 70s. The class conflict isn’t particularly rousing, though I found the gender positioning to be quite fascinating – the film focuses largely on how women contend with the problems set against them, whereas the male character is largely written out of the second-half of the film. That said, there’s a whole lot going on in a short period of time- the film’s final act feels particularly rushed and at times, downright clumsy. Nonetheless, I found the film to be a pleasurable and enjoyable diversion, with Jeon Do-yeon giving a particularly note-worthy performance.