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Sympathy Strike

Sympathy Strike

Like Lee Chang-dong’s 2007 Secret Sunshine, Charles Oliver’s debut feature Take deals with the awkward moral quandaries of infanticide and the subsequent, touchy relations between a killer and his victim’s mother. That Lee’s film remains unreleased in this country is no doubt due in part to the fact that his film, unlike Oliver’s, did not star Minnie Driver (although it did win an award at Cannes for its actress, Jeon Do-yeon). But in spite of this star pedigree, Oliver’s film manages to grapple with some knotty questions about justice, even if it is not quite as bold or ironic as Lee’s.

Driver stars as Ana, whom we eventually learn (after some chronological jerkiness) is the bereaved mother of Jesse, murdered some years earlier by Saul, played by Jeremy Renner (probably best known for his portrayal of another murderer, in 2002’s Dahmer). Crosscutting between the stories of Ana and Saul, past and present, the film tracks the causes of Jesse’s murder at length before we witness it, and in this way the film forces our identification with both characters — victim and criminal — simultaneously. Even as we follow Ana, in her pilgrimage to the state penitentiary to watch the “monster” Saul’s execution, we also follow Saul down an endless series of death-row hallways, as he mulls over the dreary life and increasingly brutal set of circumstances that led him, somehow, to kill Ana’s son.

Take is a confident debut film for Oliver, proficiently made and refreshingly subdued in style. Click here to read the rest of Leo Goldsmith’s review of Take.

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