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Hong Sangsoo



Run time:

2h 3m

An intriguing examination of the fate of a potential couple’s romantic liaison over the course of a few soju-soaked hours

There is a criticism of internationally renowned director Hong Sangsoo that once you have seen one of his films, you have seen them all.

There is no doubt that Hong’s distinctive style and talent for building a career from filming everyday small talk is easily spotted.

However, Hong has turned that barb towards his work into the theme of his 17th feature film and managed to produce perhaps his best film to date in the process.

There is more soju, more drunkenness and more of those conversations which seem too real for the world of cinema. What Hong has done here is make a director the central character in a story which repeats itself – the very nature of the criticism towards his work laid bare.

The film comes in two parts, retelling the same story with a range of differing outcomes, as the tree of opportunity and event branches in new directions.

The overarching story is about arthouse director Ham Cheon-soo (Jung Jae-young) who has travelled to Suwon to screen one of his films. Killing time ahead of the next day’s screening, he spots the beautiful Yoon Hee-jung (Kim Min-hee, The Handmaiden) whiling away her time drinking banana milk at a blessing hall in a temple.

The two decide to get coffee and head back to Yoon’s studio where she works as a painter. They later grab dinner, drink too much and then go to a party for one of Yoon’s friends.

There is the typical Hong drunk scene. Like turning up to the bar late, it can be cringing and annoying to meet drunk friends, and the portrayal here achieves much the same.

We get this story twice, split in near equal measures across the film’s two hour run time, with various changes in the events in each day together.

So what does it all mean? Well, that depends who you ask.

It could be that each part of the film represents Ham or Yoon’s version of events, or perhaps their fantasy of how such an evening would pan out. Or perhaps one version is the true event and the other is a fantasy version.

There is also the idea that while the interactions and events change, much of the results are the same. We think if only we had not said that one thing, then matters could have been different. But actually, the fate of our final destination awaits regardless and certain comments are merely semantics in a deterministic world.

There is undoubtedly some connection between Ham and Yoon, but is it enough? There can be chemistry, but the reaction not strong enough. There can be a spark, but it can burn brightly then die.

Many of us can probably recall such a meeting. A person we click with, only to discover the interaction is destined for a dead-end.

Hong is the master of such thought-provoking social commentaries and he finds himself in top form here.

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