love child

I’m always drawn to films that explore the nature of human relationships to technology and virtual reality. This documentary, Love Child, by Valerie Veatch details the circumstances surrounding a tragic event in which a baby starved to death while her parents played an online game. I went into this Sundance screening expecting to hate these parents, but this film does a good job of illuminating the factors involved; factors that point to a larger cultural problem that is not limited to these individuals nor to South Korea.

The Players:

  • Director: Valerie Veatch
  • Cinematographer: Daniel B. Levin

Synopsis:

In South Korea, an impoverished married couple with little familial support became addicted to an online game. While they spent hours on end in a gaming cafe, their newborn baby girl starved to death. This documentary explores the cultural phenomenon of gaming in South Korea and the dangers of addiction.

The Good:

  • Good Interviews: I was impressed by the candid interviews this film shows with government officials, particularly the ministry of culture. This subject is emotional and hard to talk about, but the interviewees were thorough, yet very human in their responses.
  • Methodical Investigation: Valerie Veatch looks at this situation from all of the key angles involved; she talks to the game-makers, attempts to contact the family-members, other gamers, psychiatrists, legal representatives, etc. It gives a very well-rounded picture of the elements involved for this couple and their baby.

The Bad:

  • State of Psychiatry in South Korea: I was taken aback by the methods and practices that were mentioned in this documentary. Aversion therapy and ink blot testing seem incredibly antiquated. It makes me wonder about the social and cultural stigma around mental health issues that may have led to such a lack of modernization in this discipline. I would have liked to see the documentary tackle this, at least in a small way, as well.
  • Recreated scenes: There are a few digitized recreated scenes that I felt were kind of unnecessary and distracting. I think they were meant to convey the crossing over into the digital world, but I didn’t feel they really added anything to the doc.
  • Neurological implications: I wish more time had been spent explaining the neurological differences between someone addicted to gaming and someone who is not. It was touched on briefly, and I think it is an important point.

Overall:

This documentary is not an exhaustive look at the addiction to gaming, but does a good job of explaining this incident of the couple and their baby in South Korea. It is thorough in its treatment of their story. But it scratched the surface of broader implications that left me with many questions.

Rating: 6/10