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Seo Hyun-jin offers stunning performance as lawyer with Alzheimer's in 'Cassiopeia'

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Actors Seo Hyun-jin, left, and Ahn Sung-ki in a scene from the film,
Actors Seo Hyun-jin, left, and Ahn Sung-ki in a scene from the film, "Cassiopeia" / Courtesy of Triple Pictures

By Kwak Yeon-soo

In family drama film "Cassiopeia," Seo Hyun-jin plays Soo-jin, a self-made lawyer in her 30s who raises her daughter, Ji-na, alone. Soo-jin often asks her widowed father, In-woo (Ahn Sung-ki), to pick up her daughter from "hagwon," or private academy, and look after her until she returns home.

One day, she angrily lashes out at him saying, "Where did you take my daughter?" only to find out a few moments later that her daughter is already at home. She apologizes, smiles and after a long pause, says she got "confused."

Soo-jin sends her daughter to her ex-husband in the U.S., but shortly after, she calls In-woo to say, "Hurry up, dad! We're running late for Ji-na's flight." After a car accident, she is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

The film vividly depicts Soo-jin's struggle to stay connected with her family and her own self as the disease progresses rapidly over a few months. It focuses on Soo-jin's deterioration and how the illness affects her relationships.

Seo said she cried reading the script two years ago. "At first, I didn't imagine it would be so difficult to play the role. I just wanted the role so badly," she said during a recent press conference for the film.

"After the first table read, I realized that I had been too fearless. When we started shooting, I thought, 'What the hell made me do this? I was so clueless.' I called the director and told him about my fears, crying. He comforted me by saying, 'Think about it as if we were going on a fun journey together.'"

The film also gives a window into the lives of Alzheimer's patients and embraces the value of family and life. Soo-jin and In-woo, who used to live apart, find ways to connect with each other and create stronger bonds.

Director Shin Youn-shick said he wanted to focus on father-daughter dynamics. "I wanted to focus on portraying a father who could not be there for his daughter when she was growing up but finally gets an opportunity to spend time with her when she is fully grown up," he said.

Ahn deftly portrays In-woo, Soo-jin's supportive and caring father. At all times, he stays patient with his daughter and promises to never give up on her.

But the star of the film is Seo, who gives an unforgettable performance. The audience sees her progression from a confident lawyer to a mother who becomes absolutely disoriented. She becomes unable to do the simplest things, like taking a bath or finding familiar places.

"Cassiopeia" will hit local theaters, June 1.

Kwak Yeon-soo

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