Now here are 12 South Korean films of this year.
“ Decision to Leave” is another masterwork from Park Chan-wook, who has never disappointed me and many other audiences since his third feature film “Joint Security Area”. I must confess that I do not think I understand everything in the film after I watched it for the first time, but I was entertained a lot as gladly devouring those superb cinematic moments in the movie, and I am willing to watch it again soon for appreciating more of what Park and his cast and crew members achieve here. In short, this is one of the major highlights of this year, and I urge you to check it out as soon as possible.
2. The Apartment with Two Women
Kim Se-in’s first feature film “The Apartment with Two Women” is one hell of family drama to say the least. Mainly revolving around the toxic mother and daughter relationship between its two very different main characters, the movie often strikes us quite hard with numerous painful moments of searing emotional intensity, and it is undeniably one of the most impressive South Korean films during this year. To be frank with you, I happened to be quite exhausted when I watched the film during last evening, but my eyes and mind were soon galvanized by what was so powerfully presented on the screen, and I must confess that I often braced myself throughout its rather long running time.
Shin Su-won’s “Hommage” reminds me again of that considerable gap between me and many old South Korean films in the past. Like many other audiences, I usually regard them as something no more than inconsequential artifacts, but, regardless of whether they were lost forever or not, they all are worthwhile to be remembered and researched as the parts of the South Korean movie history, and the movie makes a good point on that as poignantly resonating between past and present.
4. Gyeong-ah’s Daughter
I often braced myself while watching Kim Jung-eun’s debut feature film “Gyeong-ah’s Daughter”, a somber but undeniably powerful drama about one certain serious social gender issue in our digital era. As observing how its two different main characters respectively struggle with the sudden devastating damages inflicted upon their life, the movie is hard and difficult to watch at times, but we keep watching it nonetheless because it handles its story and characters with considerable care and restraint at least, and it surely earns its little melodramatic tears around the end of the story.
5. Kim Min-young of the Report Card
Lim Ji-sun’s first feature film “Kim Min-young of the Report Card” is a calm but intimate observation on the slow dissolution of the friendship among its three young female characters. As they try to live their respective lives in each own way after one certain turning point, they also find themselves getting drifted away from each other bit by bit, and there are several quiet but achingly bittersweet moments which will linger on your mind for a while after the movie is over.
6. The Pregnant Tree and the Goblin
It is not so easy to categorize Kim Dong-ryung and Park Kyong-tae’s “The Pregnant Tree and the Goblin”, which was finally released in South Korean theaters early in this eyar despite having its local premiere in 2019. At first, it simply seems to be a plain conventional documentary on the surface, but then it freely goes back and forth between documentary and fiction especially during its second half, and its haunting poetic moments will linger on your mind for a while in addition to making you more interested and enlightened on its rather obscure social/historical issues.
7. Nobody’s Lover
Han In-mi’s “Nobody’s Lover” is about one adolescent girl who is often lonely and desperate in her messy private life. While you may shake your head more than once due to her several unwise choices along the story, you will also come to worry and care more about her as getting to know and understand the emotional needs behind her plain appearance, and that is why it is a little consoling to see a bit of hope around the end of her bumpy emotional journey.
Lim Seung-hyeun’s “Homeless” is about a desperate young couple helplessly stuck in their grim economic status. Without getting any financial help or support at all, they come to resort to some desperate measures for not only themselves but also their little baby, and the movie often feels like a thriller as closely and intensely observing their increasingly precarious circumstance.
9. Unboxing Girl
Kim Soo-jung’s second feature film “Unboxing Girl” is often difficult to watch in many of its absurdly exasperating moments. Mainly revolving around its heroine’s very unlucky office romance, the movie has a lot to show and tell about sexism and gender inequality, and it made me wince more as I came to reflect more on what many working women in the South Korean society have to endure everyday even at present.
10. Special Delivery
“Special Delivery”, directed by Park Dae-min, is a competent genre product to be appreciated for its taut and efficient handling of story and action. While it is clearly influenced by a number of well-known seniors ranging from Walter Hill’s “The Driver” to John Cassavetes’ “Gloria”, the movie has enough style and substance to engage and entertain us, and it also confirms again to us the considerable talent and presence of its lead performer Park So-dam, whom you may remember for her memorable supporting turn in Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning film “Parasite”.
“Sewing Sisters”, directed by Kim Jung-young and Lee Hyuk-rae, is a modest but powerful documentary about the unsung efforts of South Korean female laborers in the 1970s, and it will surely make a good double feature show with “Factory Complex”, another excellent South Korean documentary about the hidden female narratives of the South Korean labor union history. This is one of the better South Korean documentaries I have watched during last several years, and I assure you that you will have many moments of enlightenment besides being moved by those remarkable women in the documentary.
“I am More”
I like documentaries presenting people different from me with care and empathy, and South Korean documentary film “I am More” is one of such cases. While its transgender heroine surely draws our attention right from the beginning due to her cocky flamboyance on the surface, we also come to see her hard-earned will and resilience behind her showy appearance as following her little human story, and you may come to respect and like her more than expected – if you are open to more tolerance and acceptance. This is a lively and touching documentary to be appreciated, and director Lee Il-ha did a superb job of vividly presenting the vibrant humanity and personality of his interesting human subject.