Warning: This review contains spoilers.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or is it?
That may not be the case in South Korea – a country with the highest percentage of cosmetic surgeries in the world.
Based on a webtoon of the same name, Mask Girl (2023) begins as a social satire with a dose of black comedy. It explores the themes of unrealistic beauty standards, societal pressure, sexual desires and objectification.
The story centres around Kim Mo-mi — an ordinary office worker by day, but a masked, live-stream personality by night. She has always dreamt of becoming a performer since young. But is constantly burdened by her looks and insecurities.
The plot thickens when her double life gets exposed. And Mo-mi gets entwined in a murder cover-up alongside her colleague, Joo Oh-nam (Ahn Jae-hong) and his mother, Kim Kyung-ja (Yeom Hye-ran).
Her life then spirals down a path of chaos and vengeance due to a chain of ill-fated events.
There has been a fair share of hits & misses from Netflix’s releases this year. But thankfully, Mask Girl is probably one of their best, yet.
Written and directed by Kim Yong-hoon, the drama’s cinematography and storytelling are breathtaking. And it takes cues from Park Chan-wook’s classic, Old Boy (2003).
The episodes are named after the respective characters. This anthology approach allows a unique perspective and different narrative.
The series sees multiple time jumps. And the protagonist is cleverly played by three different actresses: Lee Han-byeol, Nana and aptly, Go Hyun-jung (a former Miss Korea runner-up).
Each portrays the emotional struggles and mysterious character of Mo-mi throughout her life stage. From pre to post-surgery and fast-forward to the present day.
The erratic pacing of the show will probably have you on the edge of your seat after each episode. But it will also likely leave the audience craving for more if we were to nitpick.
Similar to most Korean Netflix originals, Mask Girl only has 7 episodes, which can be a double-edged sword.
While it thrived on delivering countless plot twists and turns, it pales in some of the character development. Especially for the supporting roles of Mo-mi’s best friends and even her own family members, which were not entirely addressed.
The second half of the show takes a more emotional turn. It highlights Mo-mi’s road to redemption in prison. As well as her daughter who has to deal with the various stigmas and labels growing up.
Things get ugly (and bloody) when Oh-nam’s mother executes her plot for revenge, which sets the scene for an epic reunion with the show’s main antagonist.
The beauty of this series is perhaps, in its honest and raw depiction of the different challenges and issues faced. From growing up in school, chasing your own dreams, living in society and eventually, parenting.
Mask Girl ends with a poignant closure: “I want to become a person that everyone loves very much”.
Well, don’t we all?