Her film debut A Family (2004) gave Soo Ae an excellent start on the screen. The actor had often played the main roles in TV melodrama series due to her classic beauty and delicate atmosphere. However, with A Family, Soo Ae was praised by the film industry for her stable portrayal of a pickpocket with four previous convictions, enjoying box-office success. The film also earned her various awards, including the Best New Actress at the Baeksang Arts Awards, the Blue Dragon Film Awards, and the Korean Film Awards. Looking at Soo Ae’s filmography, you can notice that she has mainly played a character that has similarities with her own image—an innocent and graceful woman who is strong-willed enough to overcome difficult situations. Such iron-hand-in-a-velvet-glove characters can be seen in her early roles, including a North Korean interpreter in Wedding Campaign (2005) and a librarian in a rural town in Once In A Summer (2006), as well as more recent ones like in Run Off (2016).
Sunny (2008), directed by Lee Joonik, is the film that showcases the explosion of Soo Ae’s tremendous energy. To find her husband who left for the war without saying a word, rural wife Sooni turns into singer ‘Sunny’ in a morale-boosting performance group, jumping into the middle of the Vietnam War. In the film, Soo Ae portrays the character’s quiet but dramatic development as Sooni gradually becomes Sunny by revealing her own voice. In this film, the actor escaped her elegant image and put on some sexy charms. Watching Sunny explode her suppressed emotions through singing is one of the highlights. With Sunny, Soo Ae won the Best Actress at prominent film festivals such as the Grand Bell Awards and Buil Film Awards, becoming the representative female actor of Chungmuro.
Since then, Soo Ae has always focused on growing female characters. Cases in point are Empress Myeongseong in The Sword with No Name (2009), who is gracious, enthusiastic, and wise, and Lee Jiwon in Run Off, a hockey player who misses her little brother but moves forward, overcoming the apathy around her. The keynote of her choice continues in genre films. In Midnight F.M. (2010), her first thriller film since her debut, Soo Ae appears as a radio show host who struggles desperately to protect her family against the threats of an unidentified listener. In the film, the actor actively used her signature low, medium-pitched voice, trying to transform her acting by portraying a desperate mother who strived to protect her child.
The nickname ‘Dre-Sooae (dress+Soo Ae)’ clearly reflects her classic beauty, and the actor is building up solid female narratives that go beyond her appearance. Soo Ae is a ‘reliable’ female actor the audience can trust in watching a film she is in, regardless of its box-office result. Jung Sujin