“ Review: "A Perfect Way to Steal a Dog" ”

[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Perfect Way to Steal a Dog"

From a literal perspective, "A Perfect Way to Steal a Dog" is just a kid's heist movie. What's surprising and particularly joyful about the product is the way it works very serious personal and societal issues into this simple concept, creating a complex tapestry that puts most similarly minded adult films to shame. Usually the ragtag band of thieves is just interested in using their ill-gotten cash to buy shiny baubles. By contrast, Ji-so (played by Lee Re) wants a home, so she doesn't have to live in her mom's car like a homeless person.

As serious as the situation sounds, because the story is portrayed from Ji-so's perspective, the result is less a sob story and more a tale about the frustrations of growing up. Ji-so is ashamed of her living situation mainly because of the abandonment issues. A brief adventure in a condemned house, while obviously dangerous, really comes off more as comical than anything else. Jeong-hyeon (played by Kang Hye-jeong) is just a clueless parent who doesn't understand how anything works.

Neither does Ji-so, for that matter. Note the meticulous efforts Ji-so goes through with her friend Chae-rang (played by Lee Ji-won-I), all for the sake of finding the perfect dog-stealing method. And yet Ji-so accidently exposes her plan to several other characters, nearly resulting in tragedy except that the dog-stealing plan was a pretty dumb one in the first place. And this is a kid's story. "A Perfect Way to Steal a Dog" may have some stark grim seriousness going on about homelessness, but it's not going to end that terribly.

The meaningful growth Ji-so goes through is realizing that other people feel the same pain she does. And dogs, too. Pay particular note to the heartbreaking conversations Ji-so has with adults. At one point Ji-so has to tell an elaborate lie to keep the plan going forward- yet the very fact that she has to lie in the first place makes the little girl realize that even adults have their own pain and insecurity.

The warmth of the story is further emphasized by the strength of the cast, who even in brief bit performances manage to become wholly defined, sympathetic, human characters with clearly defined motivation. This is especially impressive considering the diversity of their resumes. Kim Hye-ja, Choi Min-soo, and Lee Hong-gi all in the same movie? All turning in excellent bit performances as peripheral characters with essential relevance to Ji-so's emotional journey? That's just crazy! And don't get me started on the dog...

I don't know how writer / director Kim Seong-ho managed to pull this project together, but I am immensely thankful for the effort. "A Perfect Way to Steal a Dog" is a solid reminder that just because a film is aimed at a young audience doesn't require it to be bereft of emotional sincerity. This is the kind of subtle beauty we need to see at the cinema more often- a family film where a low-budget chase through a park on a jalopy is really all the excitement we need. This is the kind of life we can aspire to, and you know what? Having a home really is as amazing as Ji-so thinks. Just not for the reasons she assumes at first.

Review by William Schwartz

"A Perfect Way to Steal a Dog" is directed by Kim Seong-ho and features Kim Hye-ja, Lee Re, Choi Min-soo, Kang Hye-jeong, Lee Cheon-hee, Lee Ji-won-I and Hong Eun-taek.

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