Next on Netflix: The royal courtesan
Many books and movies tell the story of someone who grew up in poverty, only to learn they were the heir to a throne or an aristocrat all along. But what happens when the opposite is true — you’ve lived a life of luxury only to discover you’re a peasant?
This is what happens to Hwang Jin-yi in the movie of the same title. Jin-Yi is the only daughter of a baron, and has grown up protected and pampered inside the walls of her estate. She’s engaged to a man from another wealthy family, and life appears to be perfect. But when her fiancé suddenly cuts off the engagement, she’s told that it’s because the family has discovered the truth about her birth. Her father raped her mother’s servant girl and got her pregnant, and to save face, her ‘mother’ passed off the baby as her own. That baby was Jin-Yi.
Jin-Yi is now faced with a choice. Does she pretend as though nothing has happened, even though word has quickly spread about her origin? Or does she pack up and leave her estate and live the life of a common woman? Jin-Yi knows she belongs in neither world, so she enters a third, becoming a courtesan for the wealthy politicians of her region. Her lavish upbringing means she is educated in poetry and art, but her exile means that she has also become skilled in survival.
“Hwang Jin-yi” is a long historical drama, perfect for anyone who likes stories about class, romance and revenge. Though it’s mostly a story of Jin-Yi’s life, there’s a fair amount of action as roaming bandits, like Robin Hood, go around stealing from the rich to benefit the commoners. The leader of these bandits is a longtime friend and protector of Jin-Yi — but he has also inadvertently done a great deal to hurt her. Is theirs a friendship, a love story or a tragedy? Over the course of the film, it becomes more difficult to tell.