Come, Together (2017) ☆☆☆(3/4): A South Korean family in social/personal crisis

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I experienced growing uncomfortable feelings as watching South Korean film “Come, Together”. This is another gloomy drama about the harsh reality of the South Korean society, and it is often difficult to watch its main characters struggling with each own social/personal crisis. This is indeed a tough stuff, but it is worthwhile to watch thanks to mostly competent storytelling as well as good performances, and it surely earns a tentative sense of hope shown in the end.

The story is about one particularly hard week of an ordinary middle-class family. Han-na is a young girl who has prepared for college entrance examination again since her first failure, and she is quite disappointed to learn that she is placed on the waiting list instead of being fully accepted. That news also disappoints her parents Beom-goo (Im Hyeong-gook) and Mi-yeong (Lee Hye-eun) a lot. When they later have a dinner together in their apartment, Beom-goo inadvertently hurts his daughter’s feeling as openly talking about her disappointing examination result, and the awkward mood among them is palpable even though the camera steps back from their dinner table.

And then there comes another serious problem. On the next day, Beom-goo is fired from the company he has worked for 18 years, and he does not know what to do with this sudden unfortunate change, while facing mounting financial matters including the mortgage on his family’s apartment. After telling this bad news to his wife, he begins to spend most of his time in the apartment as being mired in sulky self-pity. When a delivery guy comes during one afternoon, he does not open the door just because he does not want to show his pathetic status to a stranger, and he also commits an act of cruelty on some of her wife’s precious plants just because, well, he is pissed off.

On one day, Beom-goo happens to get to know a man living right above him. While their first encounter is not very pleasant to say the least, Beom-goo comes to learn during their second encounter that the guy is actually not so different from Beom-goo, and that is the beginning of their odd relationship based on their mutual pity on each other. As they drink a lot together, they feel consoled a bit by each other, but that does not change their current status which does not have much prospect.

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While her husband keeps behaving like a bum, Mi-yeong tries to work harder than before as a saleswoman of a credit card company, but she only becomes frustrated when one of her latest clients is taken away by one of other saleswomen in her workplace. Watching Mi-yeong trying hard to persuade her potential clients, I could not help but think of a cousin working in the same field, and I came to think more about how hard she must work like Mi-yeong for more results. Sure, I was easily persuaded by her to get a new credit card for old time’s sake, but it was probably not so easy for her in case of her other clients.

Angry at that saleswoman who takes away her client, Mi-yeong attempts to get a moment of ventilation, but that only makes her circumstance worse than before, and she becomes more hostile to that saleswoman, who may look primmer than others but turns out to be as desperate as Mi-yeong. When some secret about that woman is revealed later in the movie, Mi-yeong decides to do something, but then her action eventually leads to an agonizing situation of sin and guilt.

As her parents are struggling with their respective matters, Han-na becomes more nervous about her uncertain position while desperately waiting for the call from a university in which she wants to enroll. At least, she feels consoled as being with her good friend who runs a small accessory shop, and she cannot help but envy her friend’s casual lifestyle. Rather than trying to enroll in a college, Yoo-gyeong (Han Kyeong-hyeon) decided to go her own way, and she looks happy and confident as reflected by her carefree attitude and her small but cozy residence, though she indirectly points out to her friend that her life is not all that good.

Through Yoo-gyeong, Han-na meets a girl who also happens to be on the same waiting list, and she becomes jealous because that girl is ahead of her on the list. As they drink together along with two lads during one late night, they become closer to each other, but Han-na finds herself tempted by some dark thought, and then there comes a difficult situation where she must make a moral choice on her new friend, who may be thrown into a serious danger if Han-na neglects her.

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There are a good number of intense dramatic moments as its main characters go down further into the dark pit of desperation and guilt, but the movie is not entirely devoid of warmth and humor. The scenes between Beom-goo and his neighbor are silly but melancholic, and there is also an unexpectedly humorous scene involved with a group of guys stuck inside a stalled elevator. The scenes between Hanna and Yoo-gyeong feel warm and gentle, and I like how their last scene suggests that their relationship may be more than friendship.

The lead performers are engaging to watch as they carry the film together. Although Beom-goo is not a very sympathetic figure as frequently behaving like a jerk, Im Hyeong-gook conveys well his character’s anger and frustration, and we come to understand his character to some degrees. While Lee Hye-eun is terrific especially when her character comes to face the unexpected consequence of her hate, Chae Bin holds her own place well between her two co-performers, and Kim Jae-rok, Han Kyeong-hyeon, and Bae Jeong-hwa are also wonderful in their respective supporting roles.

“Come, Together” is written and directed by Sin Dong-il, who previously made “House & Guest” (2005), “My Friend & His Wife” (2006), and “Bandhoubi” (2009). Each of his previous films left a distinctive impression on me thanks to his good handling of story and characters, and “Come, Together” is no exception. Although it has several weak points including its rather contrived ending, I was involved in its main characters’ circumstances nonetheless, and their story made me think again of the ongoing social problems of the South Korean society. Will things get better for not only them but also many other South Koreans out there? I can only hope for that, to be frank with you.

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