Hong Sang-soo’s latest film “Walk Up”, which is another film of his of this year after “The Novelist’s Film” (2022), exactly gives us what we can expect from him. Like many of his previous films, the movie simply observes a series of comic conversations among its few main characters, and it is often playful as they drink and talk more and more in front of the camera.
In the beginning, the movie opens with of a middle-aged filmmaker named Byeong-soo (Kwon Hae-hyo) and his young adult daughter Jeong-soo (Park Mi-so) arriving at one four-story building located somewhere in Seoul. The building belongs to a middle-aged woman named Hae-ok (Lee Hye-young), and, as an old friend of his, Hae-ok gladly shows him and his daughter here and there in the building after meeting them in front of the building.
Hae-ok has worked as an interior designer, and Byeong-soo wants her to take his daughter as an apprentice. Although it is clear that Jeong-soo still does not know well what she really wants to do for her life, she is at least eager to try new things under Hae-ok, and Hae-ok enjoys talking with this young lady – especially after Byeong-soo suddenly leaves the scene for some personal reason. As Jeong-soo talks a lot about her father, Hae-ok responds with some amusement while sharing more drink with her, and we are all the more amused as wondering how much Byeong-soo is actually overlapped with Hong in real life.
After that, the movie promptly moves onto its second act. Byeong-soo and Hae-ok meet again in front of the same building, but the situation between them is a bit different than before. After working and studying under Hae-ok for a while, his daughter eventually left, but there is not any hard feeling between him and Hae-ok, and Hae-ok later takes him to a little private restaurant in the building, which is run by a woman named Seon-hee (Song Seon-mi).
While Hae-ok and Byeong-soo casually talk with Seon-hee, we get to know a bit about Seon-hee’s life. She initially wanted to be a painter, but, mainly because she did not have much talent despite her passion, she eventually gave up, and she is now happy to run her little private business. As talking more with her, Byeong-soo finds himself attracted to Seon-hee, and we are not so surprised when we later see them living together in the building at the beginning of the third act.
On the surface, Byeong-soo and Seon-hee seem content with being with each other, but we gradually come to sense some tension between them. Due to an unspecified health problem of his, Byeong-soo is doing some diet, and Seon-hee has willingly gone along with that as his partner, but they soon come to have a sort of passive argument when Seon-hee is about to go outside for seeing somebody both of them know. As their argument goes on, Byeong-soo becomes quite petty just like many other heroes of Hong’s films, and we later get a humorous scene as he imagines how he and Seon-hee may argue with each other again once she returns.
Compared to this, the last act is relatively milder in comparison. We see Byeong-soo being with a new girlfriend, and they enjoy cooking and eating some meat together on the balcony of their residence because he is not on diet anymore. As they eat and drink more, she comes to talk about a little about her religious belief, and Byeong-soo phlegmatically listens to her without much objection.
This part is less engaging than the previous three acts of the film, but then there comes a little nice surreal moment around the end of the film. I must confess that I do not know how to interpret this moment, but it surely adds some extra amusement to what we have seen during 90 minutes, and the movie eventually comes to us as a melancholic but playful autobiographical portrayal from Hong, whose personal life has been rather messy due to his recent extramarital affair with his frequent actress Kim Min-hee (She participated in its production a bit although she does not appear on the screen, by the way).
Anyway, Hong drew good performances from his small cast as usual. As Kwon Hae-hyo, who has settled as Hong’s new screen persona as steadily appearing in his several recent films including “The Novelist’s Film”, dutifully holds the center, Lee Hye-young, Song Seon-mi, Cho Yun-hee, and Park Mi-so have each own moment to shine around him, and Song is effortless during her several key comic moments with Kwon.
In conclusion, “Walk Up” will amuse and entertain you if you are familiar with many of Hong’s previous works, and I will not be surprised at all if both of them are included in the annual lists of numerous local critics around the end of this year. Personally, I think “The Novelist’s Film” is more interesting and enjoyable in comparison, but “Walk Up” is still good enough for recommendation, and I will not deny that I chuckled more than once as observing how some of its most amusing moments often resonate with Hong’s private life outside. Yes, many of Hong’s films are still a sort of acquired taste to me, but I still admire nonetheless how he has diligently kept going for more than 25 years since his first feature film “The Day a Pig Fell into the Well” (1996), and I will probably continue to follow his ceaselessly prolific filmmaking career to the end just like many other local arthouse movie theater audiences out there.
The final woman who Byeong-soo eats meat on the terrace with is a new girlfriend (played by Cho Yunhee). This woman is not Seon-hee so this observation you make is incorrect:
” …Byeong-soo and Seon-hee becomes more pleasant than before, and they enjoy cooking and eating some meat together on the balcony”.
SC: Thanks for your correction.