‘Return to Seoul’ is a tapestry filled with unique moments that stay with us even if we don’t want to, loose snapshots of a life marked by rejection and the pain of abandonment whose wound reopens by chance and never fully closes again. Freddie dances. Cries in frustration. He plays the piano. He puts together some chairs willing to meet people. He barely speaks Korean. It languishes before 22 words. Send a WhatsApp. He returns, once again, to origins that he never wanted to know. Eight years encapsulated in almost two hours of the best cinema of the year.
As it already happened with that contemporary masterpiece that is ‘Aftersun’, ‘Return to Seoul’ is gaining weight in your head as you remember it. Those phrases that cannot be forgotten, those forced goodbyes, those Tinder dates that lead to an uncertain future at work: this may be the film that best shows how the spread of hundreds of different feelings at the same time leads to the worst possible decisionsto the mental block, to the continuous war with oneself in which there can never be winners.
When Freddie comes to Korea by chance has no intention of seeking its roots. Literally all you want to do for two weeks is sightsee, meet people and make friends. However, he can’t help but let himself be carried away by that little inner voice that asks him to know where he comes from… And discover two things: first, that his desires are always better in imagination than in reality. And second, what that 25-year span without her biological parents had not only existed for her, but for other people as well.
Shared pain and frustration, lead to wonderfully taut scenes trying to fill gaps in time that they will never be able to. Freddie’s father insists on buying her shoes he doesn’t need, and she leaves them behind as a way of saying goodbye to that part of herself. However, when you have opened Pandora’s box, it is impossible to close itand what at first was going to be a trip becomes a tradition that models a magnificent character.
return to loneliness
The temporary jumps that the tape gives (and that at first are misplaced) allow us to see not only the evolution of Freddie, but also to verify how one day can mark the rest of your life. Beyond her first visit, we will meet her again in Seoul in different ways, but with a new personality that she will always have in the background. the internal struggle between who is and who could be. The past that never existed and the present that prevents her from being happyfilling it with meaningless sex, music, couples you can erase with a snap of your fingers.
It is interesting how in ‘Return to Seoul’ its protagonist is literally ‘Lost in translation’: as time goes by, he manages to tune in with his father by learning words of a language with which he hopes to fill an inner void. However, when found in language, part of the fascination is lost. Understanding each other is a stumbling block, and Freddie can’t help but feel abandoned again, almost confusing his feelings with his desires. It’s not that she’s alone: it’s that she, she believes, wants to be.
Freddie can not be bad. She’s absolutely absurd, flawed, and amoral, but she’s also broken on the inside., and the only way to put her own pieces back together is by trying to understand herself. And for that, you need to have the complete puzzle in order to put it in mental order: even when the film is preparing to give us the final blow, in a magnificent shot inside a hotel bathroom where it is inevitable not to feel that something inside of us is not being done. shreds, He does it with a unique and irreproachable sensitivity.
If you expect a thriller about a young girl desperately searching for her origins or a drama in which all feelings are exposed and debated, this is not your movie: ‘Return to Seoul’ moves between the subtlety, the complex personality of a rabid and uncontrollable protagonistthe analysis of the very concept of family and an underlying plane that hovers over the film in which Freddie, trying to connect with his past and do Korea a favor, ends up opening wounds that were already healed.
Park Ji-min delivers in her first performance nuances, layers, edges and doubts that many other actresses would be chasing for years. This is an iconic role that knows how to harness the value of powerful direction and subtle scripting to take it to new heights. And the best thing is that Freddie is not alone: next to her, a group of secondary characters is shown sculpted in detail. That father who does not miss his daughter, but the concept of his daughter that he has in his head. That absent mother who says everything in her silence. That confused friend who despite everything she can’t help but feel compassion for. Everything comes together, each scene has a reason, there is nothing random or left over.
I have tried in a very conscious way to avoid talking about the running gag of the film, which deep down has much more depth than it seems, because it is better that you be surprised to see it. Disconcerting, yes, but if you think about the Korean military past it paints even more the picture of desolation of a character who believes she understands an environment that will never understand her. Sadness, lack of understanding, open wounds and messages that do not arrive: ‘Return to Seoul’ is a place to return to.
In Espinof | The film that changed Korean cinema forever: this extreme revenge thriller made the director of ‘Decision to Leave’ take off and you can see it on Amazon Prime Video