DAYTIME DRINKING (2008)
A charming and hilarious low-budget indie flick, as a lovelorn young man embarks on a disastrous seaside break filled with insobriety and loneliness
Daytime Drinking is the low-budget debut most aspiring filmmakers dream of making. A superb script and understated performances combine to deliver a charming and humorous take on what a broken heart and too much soju can create.
The film taps into the very Korean psyche around the impact of drink, something so intrinsic to life in Korea, with various characters joining our lead to let the booze flow. Indeed, despite his best efforts, it become almost impossible to stop having drinks forced into his hand.
Notions of sociability and polite interactions, also important to Korea, are unpacked as new characters are introduced over the next bottle of soju (one version of the DVD edition even has Director Noh Young-seok explaining various Korean drinking traditions).
Hyeok-jin (Song Sam-dong) has just broken-up with his girlfriend and is drowning his sorrows with his friends. In a piece of drunken over-excitement, his friends persuade him to head out of town tomorrow and spend time together at a guest house of an acquaintance.
He heads there in the morning, but when he calls his friends they are just waking with hangovers that put them off the trip. However, his friend Ki-sang (Yook Sang-yeob) assures him he will follow soon.
This rural location is no bustling tourist spot though and Hyeok-jin is left looking for the guest house and wandering along a freezing beach in the winter. Despite Ki-sang’s continued promises, Hyeok-jin’s trip is extended as a solo one, leaving him at the mercy of a band strange locals.
The first aspect that emanates from Daytime Drinking is that the script is so superb you soon forget about the film’s humble budget. This feeling is also aided by some creative direction and natural performances.
It is also genuinely funny throughout, combining smart lines and observations, with physical elements such as a trouser-less Hyeok-jin begging for a ride on a snow-caked mountain road. However, most frequently the humour is as a dry as the beach’s sand, interwoven with the continuing narrative.
You need only an elementary understanding of Korea’s drinking culture to understand the satire of the film, one that matches the drinking approaches of various other locations around the world.
Despite Hyeok-jin being a relentless pushover, there is still vast relatability to his fate. Like a story a friend would chronicle in the bar to a pack of giggling listeners, one you regularly egg them on to retell once again.
It also manages to evoke a feeling that will be familiar to anyone that has even drunk too much on a trip away. That feeling of shivering through a hangover while your bed at home has never seemed more appealing.
The film itself is deeply watchable whether you are pouring the soju or recovering from its effects. Funny, charming and a telling slice of Korean culture, it is a hidden gem everyone should discover.