It might be a bit convoluted for its own good, but The Call (2020) is a solid South Korean genre-blender with a couple of excellent leading performances.
This review of The Call (2020) is spoiler-free.
Netflix is increasingly becoming the home to a diverse array of Korean content, particularly television, so The Call should fit right in on the streaming platform. It’s a twisty-turny genre-blending effort that takes a relatively simple premise and radically contorts it, but two excellent central performances help to keep the whole thing grounded in a human element. It might be a bit too convoluted for some, and certainly for its own good, but there are enough upsides to it that it’ll probably find an audience in what is otherwise a light streaming weekend.
Past and present collide in a premise that links two characters, Seo-yeon (Park Shin-hye, late of the recent #Alive, also on Netflix) and Young-sook (Jong-seo Jun), across two decades via a landline phone in the same house at two distinct points in time. There’s much more to it than that, obviously, but to reveal more would be to inadvertently spoil a lot of the fun, since the plot folds in varied elements plucked from multiple different genres, giving The Call (known simply as Call on IMDb, possibly for good reason given how many other films have the same title) tinges of sci-fi, horror, crime, mystery, and a bit more besides.
Seo-yeon is the nominal present-day POV character, but Jong-seo Jun (Burning) might deliver an even better performance as Young-sook, trapped in dire circumstances in 1999. Films like this are always something of a puzzle, and when you’re finished putting it together there’s usually a sense that certain pieces don’t fit right. Diligent viewers might find similar holes in The Call, but less than would be necessary to really damage its overall effect. By all accounts it holds up rather well, and writer-director Lee Chung-hyun proves a capable guiding hand.
With solid performances, excellent production highlighting the cause and effect relationship between parallel past and present timelines, and a willingness to get lurid where necessary, The Call is a solid effort, and all within two hours. Well worth a look on Netflix this weekend.