Director – Park Song-yeol – 2020 – South Korea – Cert. 12 – 90m
A young, unemployed, married Seoul couple struggle to make ends meet – from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th
Married Seoul couple Young-tae and Jeong-hee (played by screenwriters Park Song-yeol and Won Hyung-ra) are in financial trouble. Neither of them has a secure job with a regular income. They aren’t the only ones: he lends his mate Myung-su the family camera for a week so the latter can do some professional wedding photography to earn some money. If this sounds a bit odd, it sounds odder still when Young-tae finds his calls blocked and can’t get the camera back.
Desperate for money, Young-tae goes for interviews and, after a row with an old friend who purports to be setting up a business but turns out trying to recruit him for a network marketing operation, which Young-tae dismisses as a pyramid scheme, he eventually picks up a job as a cabbie where one night he gets into a row with a customer over taking a quicker, toll road rather than a slower, free road and loses his deposit with the company.
His wife, too, is following up jobs, experiencing difficulties with customers when delivering takeway meals then finding herself on a one day supply teaching gig for which she seems well-prepared until the last minute discovery that the location is outside Seoul, causing her to arrive late (which probably scuppers her chances of further work there).
The couple feel ashamed when they visit her mum without the expected birthday gift.
The couple have agreed that no matter how bad things get, they won’t take out a loan – but Jeong-hee gets so desperate that she does so, then gets bombarded with text messages for payment.
The film was made on a shoestring and feels a little stretched at 90 minutes, and has some moments at the beginning where the couple describe aspects of their financial situation in a way that feels more like the script telling us their problems than anything such characters would ever actually say.
Nevertheless touches on some clearly heartfelt issues about the problems of just getting by. The couple pictured don’t seem particularly extravagant and are just struggling to get by, but the monthly utility bills, student loan repayments and so forth are proving too much for them (and, it seem, other characters on the fringes of the story as well). There’s a strong undercurrent both of family members looking out for one another and of the younger generation struggling to get by under impossible employment conditions.
All of this is an idictment on a society which clearly isn’t working economically for the present day, younger generation. However, the film lacks the gravitas of either an I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, 2016) or a Microhabitat (Jeon Go-woon, 2017).
Hot In Day, Cold At Nightplays in LKFF, The London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th. Tickets here.
LKFF 2022 Trailer:
Special Focus: Kang Soo-yeon (includes free screening – booking essential)
Touring Programme (Glasgow, Manchester)