Imagine needing to scream for help, but being unable to speak or hear. This was the disturbing reality for one deaf woman, Kyungmi (played by Jim Kijoo). In Kwon Oseung’s Midnight, she spends one night running away from a psychotic serial killer in a classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The film is a suspenseful and stressful two-hour watch from beginning to end. With several high speed chases on foot and too many close calls to count, the story may seem like the standard thriller movie. Looking deeper, however, viewers will see another villain aside from the killer hiding in plain sight — society.
Taking a closer look at South Korean culture, Midnight explores misogyny and highlights the vast difference in the treatment of men and women. Bystanders are quick to believe and assist the male villain (portrayed by Wi Hajoon) without any explanation necessary, while ignoring the female victims’ cries for help. The movie also shines a light on ableism. Rather than make a meaningful effort to understand the deaf protagonist, many people she encounters simply write her off and ignore her in order to not inconvenience themselves.
Additionally, the cast presents phenomenal portrayals of their respective characters. Jin Kijoo, a hearing actress, plays the role of a deaf character naturally and with plenty of attention to detail. Aside from her seemingly fluent use of Korean Sign Language, she makes good use of body language and facial expressions to emphasize her emotions throughout the film. She incorporates many subtle sounds as she signs, grunting or groaning to further emote frustration or fear. Similar to John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place, the film mutes sound when showing Kyungmi’s perspective and re-introduces sound when the camera pans away. Meanwhile, Wi Hajoon skillfully portrays a manipulative murderer, switching up his demeanor quickly and smoothly from “crazy killer” to “innocent victim” at will.
The movie is a little too fast-paced, with the protagonist constantly running and so much action taking place that it’s hard to believe it all happened in one night. While the plot line is predictable at times, Midnight succeeds in illustrating some of the problems that women and disabled people face in their daily lives. What’s more, the spectacular performances make this a movie worth watching.