The Thing I Like About …

Punch Lady: when Ha-Eun stands up on the stairs.

In Punch Lady, Ha-Eun is in an incredibly abusive relationship with her husband Ju-Chang, a mixed-martial-arts fighter.  Ha-Eun and her daughter leave him and go into hiding, but when Ju-Chang kills Ha-Eun’s high-school sweetheart in the ring, Ha-Eun challenges Ju-Chang to an official match.  She pretends she knows martial arts, and the whole thing becomes a media sensation.

Of course, she doesn’t know any martial arts.

She can’t even really learn from her trainer, because she has spent so many years ducking that she can’t do anything else. She spends the entire movie ducking, covering, closing her eyes, putting her hands over her head, whimpering, sobbing, pleading, cowering. She spends the entire movie responding to her husband’s perpetual attacks.

Then, as she sits on the stairs at the gym, her husband comes to her – to shame her into giving up the match. She says no. He rushes at her. She stands up.

Her eyes are open. Her hands are by her sides. She stands up, and tells him no.

It doesn’t matter after that if she wins the match or not. It doesn’t matter if Ju-Chang ever “learns his lesson.” It’s not about beating him, or about leaving him, or even about being brave. It’s about pushing all of the “him” out of her head, and being who she really is underneath the bruises and the pain.

That’s what it’s about … but watching the match is fun too.

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