I Leave Home (2023) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): An unexpected journey of two different losers

South Korean independent film “I Leave Home” is about an unexpected journey of two different losers who are utterly pathetic in each own way. They are not exactly interesting enough to draw our attention, and the movie also occasionally suffers from its weak narrative and thin characterization, but this mildly amiable road movie will not disappoint you if you just want to get relaxed while enjoying a series of nice landscapes unfolded on the screen.

At the beginning, we are introduced to Jin-woo (Na Hyun-joon), a struggling filmmaker who has currently earned his meager living via working as a part-time motel employee. Although it looks like there is a chance to boost his filmmaking career, that chance seems to be out of his reach no matter how much he tries, and he is not even willing to be with his wife and her family just because of his wounded pride.

Meanwhile, one of his close friends is about to walk away from his current life to become a Buddhist monk, so Jin-woo later has a little evening drinking party along with his friend before his friend heads to some rural Buddhist temple in the next morning. Although Seong-min (Yang Heung-joo) does not say much about his religious motive, but he really seems to be serious about devoting the rest of his life to Buddhism, and we come to gather that he has been frustrated a lot with how his life has been going nowhere.

Anyway, Seong-min is ready to enter that Buddhist temple in question when he arrives there along with Jin-woo in the next morning, but then there comes an unforeseen problem. It belatedly turns out that Seong-min is actually a bit too old to be accepted into the temple, and Seong-min and Jin-woo have no choice but to go to some other Buddhist temple where Seong-min can be accepted.

Of course, things keep going wrong for both Seong-min and Jin-woo, and the movie accordingly goes from one humorous moment to another as they keep finding themselves on the road with no definite end in sight. Despite quite befuddled about his ongoing procedure problem, Seong-min still wants to become a Buddhist monk nonetheless, and Jin-woo has to accompany his friend because he cannot just walk away from his friend. Besides, he has nothing else to do except going back to that motel job, which is the last thing he wants to do right now.

As the movie follows their journey, we see more of how pathetic Seong-min and Jin-woo are. Seong-min is running away from all those personal issues of his life because he does not know what to do with them, and Jin-woo is hopelessly stuck in his current state of life while not seeing any hope or possibility from that at all. His situation becomes more miserable when he is later notified that he lost that possible big chance for his filmmaking career, and he only comes to show more pettiness just because of that.

It would take some efforts for us to observe and care about these two miserable losers’ aimless journey, but the movie thankfully places several colorful figures here and there around their journey. At one point early in the story, Seong-min and Ji-woo receive some unexpected hospitality from a small local restaurant owner, and the mood becomes a bit more cheerful than before as they casually drink and talk together like the characters of Hong Sang-soo films. In case of the part unfolded at a little beach house belonging to an artist friend of Seong-min and Jin-woo, that artist friend and her several colleagues lighten up Seong-min and Jin-woo a little via their artistic activities, and Seong-min and Jin-woo accordingly become more relaxed than before.

However, the screenplay by Park Jin-soo often stumbles in building up its two main characters along the story. While we do not get to know much about Jin-woo except his misery and pettiness, Seong-min is mainly defined by his passive appearance, and we still do not get much glimpse into his life or personality even when his wife and daughter appear later in the story. Your interest may be increased a little when Seong-min reveals something about his daughter’s sexual identity, but Seong-min’s daughter remains rather underdeveloped just like many other supporting characters in the film, and the same thing can be said about a certain figure from Seong-min’s past.

While Na Hyun-joon is relatively showier in comparison, Yang Heung-joo steadily holds the ground as dutifully complementing his co-star, and we can easily sense a long history between their characters via their smooth interactions throughout the film. In case of the supporting performers who come and then go around Na and Yang, they are fairly believable as plain ordinary characters you may come across in real life, but the movie could add more depth and personality to their supporting characters in my inconsequential opinion, and that is the main reason why I think they are rather under-utilized on the whole.

In conclusion, “I Leave Home” is not satisfying enough to recommend, but director Kim Sung-hwan, who started his filmmaking careers with two documentary films before making a feature film debut here, shows here at least that he is a filmmaker with considerable talent and potential. Yes, this is a rather imperfect journey, but the movie is not entirely without good moments to enjoy at least. To be frank with you, I sincerely hope that I will be more entertained and impressed by whatever will come next from Kim.

This entry was posted in Movies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.