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After divorcing and forced to find work, Eunhee (Jun Do-jeon) is learning to stand on her own two feet. She finds work at a restaurant, cleaning and doing dishes. Even though she works very hard, she couldn’t make good money. One day, based on her education in early child care, she got the chance to work as an upper class family housemaid. She began taking care of their six-year-old daughter and doing other housemaid responsibilities.
The man of the house is named Hun (Lee Jung-jae), a very attractive and wealthy man. His wife, Hera (Seo Woo), is classy and elegant and pregnant with twins. An older maid, Byungshik (Yoon Yeo-jeong), and in service for many years, oversees the family. To Eunhee, Byungshik is very helpful, showing her around the place, but behind her back she works to keep her position in the house.
Hera obsesses to have her twins be sons to carry on the family line. Hun flagrantly beds other women so Hera stresses about having a son first. Hun doesn’t care who has his baby. He performs his duties as husband and provides for his family but enjoys pursuing extramarital sex. Hera knows if another woman has a son before her, she will lose everything.
The daughter, Nami (Ahn Seo-hyeon), likes Eunhee a lot. Eunhee likes her too and wants to have a daughter just like her. One day the family went to their summer house, taking Eunhee with them. On the first night there, Hun visits Eunhee’s room, tempting her with his sexual allure. They have sex and she feels thrilled but also scared. The next day, Hun gives her a bonus check. This troubles her but she continues her relationship with him. They make love passionately, hiding it from his wife. But before long, the older maid suspects their secret relationship.
One night Byungshik wakes up in the middle of the night and hears Eunhee’s moans of pleasure. Later the older maid suspects Eunhee is pregnant by Eunhee’s behavior. Byungshik tells Hera about their secret relationship and Eunhee’s pregnancy. Hera and Hera’s mother (Park Ji-young) make plans to kill the fetus. Eunhee, not knowing she is pregnant, has an accident by their hands and ends up in the hospital where she learns she is with child. She wants to keep the baby even though she’s having a married man’s baby. Ultimately, Eunhee loses her baby by slow poisoning from Hera and Byungshik and they throw her out of their house. Eunhee becomes distraught and decides to seek revenge on them.
Directed by Im Sang-soo, this remake of the 1960 film of the same name shows Korea’s male-dominated society. The wife knew he was cheating but she didn’t blame him, she only focused on Eunhee. Hera was afraid Eunhee would have a boy, that’s why she wanted to kill the baby. In Korean culture, having a son is still a priority in many families. The film represents mammonism in modern culture by having the wealthy man believe he can do and buy everything what he wants. Even people.
Eunhee is a great character because Hun thought he could buy Eunhee’s love with his money but, while in the beginning of the movie she did like him and her innocence made her follow him, that eventually changed. Hun couldn’t buy Eunhee’s heart even with all his money. He couldn’t control her love or her mind. Sang-Soo’s vision of Eunhee’s response to her situation is shocking and tries hard to challenge the audience but could leave some viewers with strong mixed emotions. No matter your reaction, the controversial ending will have you thinking.
The Housemaid is currently available for download on Netflix (US).