Now here are 12 South Korean films of this year.
“I Don’t Fire Myself” is a plain but sobering social drama about one woman’s desperate struggle for her life and existence. Reminiscent of the comparable works of the Dardenne brothers and Ken Loach, the movie sharply examines systemic injustices including sex discrimination and labor exploitation as calmly following her long and difficult plight, and it surely earns a little glimmer of hope and optimism in the end while never overlooking that harsh reality surrounding her and others around her.
2. Ten Months
“Ten Months” gives us a painfully funny and honest tale of one certain aspect of womanhood in the South Korea society. Duly sliding up and down along with its unlucky heroine whose life is turned upside down by the pregnancy both unexpected and unwanted, the movie ably alternates between humor and despair, and we come to empathize more with its heroine while amused or horrified by many difficult moments during her rocky emotional journey along the story.
3. Black Light
“Black Light” is a seemingly plain but undeniably compelling mystery melodrama, which revolves around the truth beyond the reach of everyone involved with a very complicated circumstance in one way or another. As its three different main characters struggle with each own pain and guilt during the aftermath, they also find themselves facing more lies and facts uncovered one by one along the plot, and we come to wonder whether it is really worthwhile for them to clarify who was actually the victim or the perpetrator.
I could not help but a bit nostalgic while watching “Short Vacation”, which is a very simple story about four ordinary adolescent girls’ little summer journey around the end of one of the Seoul Metropolitan Subway lines. Although nothing much happens among them throughout the film, it is constantly engaging to observe whatever is spontaneously exchanged among them, and their plain journey certainly takes my mind back to those little adventures of mine during my childhood years.
“Aloners” revolves around the daily life of one young woman who simply prefers to be alone. While she is not exactly a likable person, the movie takes patience in observing not only her loneliness but also what is quietly churning behind that, and we come to understand her to some degree while also touched by how she eventually takes a few active steps for herself around the end of the story.
6. Beyond You
To be frank with you, I was rather bored during the first 30 minutes of “Beyond You” because I did not know much about what and how it was going to be about. On the surface, it initially looked like another low-budget film influenced by those plain talky works of Hong Sang-soo, but then it somehow engaged me more as turning into something quite different. As reflecting more on a number of key moments in the film, I come to admire its storytelling and technical aspects more, and I am willing to appreciate its several strong points again someday.
“Gull” is a simple but haunting character drama about one ordinary woman’s harrowing emotional journey after a traumatic incident. While dryly but sensitively observing her inner struggle without any unnecessary exaggeration, the movie slowly lets us come to know and understand her as a human being whose painful voice deserves to be heard and respected, and it is really poignant to see when she eventually comes to find her inner strength to make a strong and defiant stand against the injustice inflicted upon her.
“Three Sisters” may make you feel wince or cringe a lot at first. As revolving around three very different sisters who are all quite problematic in each own way, the movie is often darkly humorous and uncomfortable in the depiction of their respective miserable situations, but then they come to us as damaged human characters while we get to know more of them along the story, and it is actually cathartic to see what is inevitably sparked and revealed around the time when they finally gather together later in the movie.
9. Perhaps Love
“Perhaps Love” caught me off guard for several solid moments for laughs and chuckles. Cheerfully hopping among a number of different colorful comic characters, the movie frequently shines with considerable wit and humor, and then it also somehow generates some genuine poignancy while never interrupting its lightweight overall tone.
I often wanted to shake my head as watching “Snowball”, which mainly revolves around three different adolescent girls who try their best but end up doing their worst. Although it phlegmatically observes their worsening circumstance from the distance, the movie also lets us understand their emotional struggle and confusion to some degree, and we keep watching them even when it becomes quite apparent that something worse will continue to happen among them along the story.
I often could not help but become a bit emotional as watching South Korean documentary film “Coming to You”. Mainly focusing on two different mothers willingly standing by their respective sexual minority kids, the documentary lets the audiences have more empathy and understanding on their sincere efforts for making a better world for their kids and many other sexual minority people out there, and, as a gay man who has had his own hard moments, I was touched a lot by a series of genuine personal moments observed from these two mothers and their kids.
On the other hand, “A Long Way to School” looks into a long fight of a group of courageous mothers who simply wanted their children with disabilities to have a special school closer to them. While it is often infuriating to see how the situation was often hard and difficult for these strong-willed ladies in many aspects, it is also touching to see how they stuck together through the love for their children, and we come to reflect more on the urgent social issues presented in the documentary.