Scattered Night (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): Between their divorcing parents

South Korean independent film “Scattered Night” simply but sensitively observes a growing domestic dilemma within one ordinary family to be broken in one way or another. While the situation is unavoidable to say the least, the kids must make a big inevitable decision which will surely affect the rest of their life, and the movie subtly and gradually conveys to us their emotional conflict with gentle understanding and empathy.

During its first half, the movie slowly establishes the ongoing change in the daily life of a young girl named Soo-min (Moon Seung-ah) and her older brother Jin-ho (Choi Joon-woo). Their parents recently decided to end their long married life, so they are about to sell their apartment, but Soo-min is still not accustomed to this change even when a potential buyer drops by the apartment – or when her parents frankly tell her and her older brother that they are soon going to live separately once everything is settled in their divorce process.

Regardless of whatever happened between them before their eventual decision, Soo-min’s parents are not that bitter or angry about their impending breakup, but there is one important matter still remaining unresolved between them. Although they agreed to live respectively with either of their two children, they have not decided yet on which one they will live with, and it is quite possible that they will leave the decision to Soo-min and Jin-ho.

While Jin-ho does not care that much about this matter as mostly occupied with his upcoming school examination, Soo-min is not so happy about their current circumstance. The more she reflects on this matter, the more uncertain she becomes about which parent she prefers to live with. That naturally makes her wish more that her parents will just continue to live together as before, but, of course, there is nothing she can do for stopping her parents from going through the final stage of their divorce.

And we get to know the pros and cons of two only options given to her and her older brother. While their father is not a bad dad at all, he does not know much about what his kids wants, and that aspect is evident from a little amusing scene where, after being rather indecisive about how he should spend a day with his kids, he just takes them to a local museum where he has incidentally worked for years. In case of their mother, she is planning to get a new apartment which seems to be bigger than her ex-husband’s current residence at least, but it is clear that she will be often busy with restarting her life and resuming her old professional career, though she does care about both of her children as much as her ex-husband.

As bright summer days continue as usual, Soo-min becomes more conflicted than before, and she and her older brother are sometimes baffled by how her parents try to hide their ongoing situation from others at least for now. At one point later in the story, Soo-min and her family go to her maternal grandmother’s home for having her birthday party together, and the mood feels a bit cheerful at first as everyone gladly celebrates her birthday, but then it becomes uneasy as her mother and grandmother come to clash with each other. While Soo-min’s grandmother does not seem to know about the divorce yet, Soo-min’s mother cannot help but get annoyed by the words from her mother, and that certainly makes everyone else feel very awkward to say the least.

When there eventually comes a point where Soo-min and her family must deal with their inconvenient matter in one way or another, the movie becomes a little tense than before, but directors Lee Ji-hyoung and Kim Sol steadily maintain its calm and somber atmosphere as before. During one key scene around the finale, the camera simply stays around its four main characters as if it were another member of the family, but it palpably captures the uncomfortable emotional currents among them, and we come to care more about their difficult domestic circumstance. Although I initially thought the ending is a bit too inconclusive, it mostly works on the emotional level nonetheless, and it still lingers on my mind even at present.

By the way, the movie was made mainly for the directors’ graduation at Dankook University, but the overall result is not amateurish at all while being as competent as you can expect from any good independent film, and they also draw good performances from their four main cast members, who are all believable as human characters with each own personal matters to deal with. While Kim Hye-young and Im Ho-joon hold the ground as required, Moon Seung-ah and Choi Joon-woo are engaging in their unadorned natural acting, and Moon, a young actress who has been already known to many of us for her recent supporting turn in “Voice of Silence” (2020), ably holds the center as the heart and soul of the film. Although she has so far appeared in only two feature films, this wonderful young actress is indubitably a new talent to watch, and I sincerely hope that she will impress us more in the future.

In conclusion, “Scattered Night” is another notable South Korean independent film of this year, and I admire its directors’ thoughtful handling of story, mood, and characters. In my inconsequential opinion, they are talented enough to be mentioned along with several other new notable female filmmakers in South Korea, and I will look forward to watching whatever they will do next.

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