MOVING ON (2019)
Quiet and understated, a subtle drama brimming with realistic interactions as a grandfather’s house becomes the new family home
The family unit is an important topic for Korean cinema and in Yoon Dan-bi's debut feature we are given a natural view of how families interact daily as they deal with festering anxiety and loss.
Much of the film is the simple act of the family meal. The group sat crossed legged at the dining table, enjoying their meals and wrestling with their emotional loads in the process.
For many viewers, particularly those who grew-up in Korea or have spent time in the country, it will invoke a large dose of nostalgia. For international viewers, you are effectively invited into a Korean home to see a family love, clash and make-up.
Okju (Choi Jung-un) and her younger brother Dongju (Park Seung-jun) move into their grandfather’s house along with their single father.
It takes some effort to set into their new environment, with their elderly grandfather often confused and only able to communicate with them in soft tones. The children are also able to reconnect with their aunt, who is going through a separation from her husband.
In this new environment, Okju and Dongju suffer the growing pains of childhood in a coming-of-age story which develops within the private walls of the family home.
It is a remarkability confident film for a first-time director, as Yoon Dan-bi does not stretch the performances, but rather lets the characters naturally interact. This creates a deceptively simple film that has a power which we more slowly comprehend.
There is a tone that links to Bora Kim’s superb House of Hummingbird (2018). Outside of Korea, it seems to evoke Hou Hsiao-hsien's A Summer at Grandpa’s and while it might be a bit much to mention after a debut, Japanese master of the family drama Hirokazu Kore-eda.
To say the film is quiet is no exaggeration and this is where much of its realism comes from. Our lives are not long trains of detailed conversation, they are punctuated with silence. However, much can be said during period of verbal silence.
Korean cinema never shies from using children in films and Moving On is another where its success relies on Choi Jung-un and Park Seung-jun's performances as the family’s children. While Okjo is anxious and insecure (requesting $700 to ‘have her eyes done’ at one point), Dongju is boisterous and funny, entertaining the family with his dance routines.
“Some filmmakers are inspired by external factors, but I’ve tried to show myself honestly... with a film based on my own experience,” said Yoon.
Winner of numerous awards including the Bright Future Award at the 2020 International Film Festival Rotterdam, let us hope that Yoon has further experience to draw upon for more work of such understated beauty.
At times we are a species divided by our generational gaps, especially in Korea, a country which has endured such rapid change over the past generation. In Moving On we bear witness to the joys and conflicts of three generations under a single roof.