Korean filmmakers have given us some groundbreaking cinema. The infamous Oldboy, the recent zombie infused Train to Busan and of course, and The Handmaiden all spring to mind. With a big resounding sigh, it’s with great disappointment to say that The Day After won’t stick so prominently in one’s mind. As the London Korean festival launches into a smashing celebration of their own work; this certainly doesn’t pack the punch to open such a gala.
The Day After simply isn’t for everyone. The logistics and technical aspects of this film certainly don’t let it down, in fact along with the comedic elements such tactics makes this stand out of the crowd, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons. This is, without a doubt one of the most convoluted features ever to exist (despite its 90 minute running time). Kubrick knew how to make that scene last and fill it full of interesting things so the mind stays fixated. Woody Allen ensures his writing is tight-knit despite his trade mark lingering scenes of heavy dialogue; yet Sang Soo misses the mark here and dangles dangerously close to the realm of boredom.
Fueled by alcohol, Chinese food and being unfaithful to his wife, writer Bong-Wan (Kwon Hae-Hyo) is a coward of a man. Never fully facing up to the consequences of his actions, after finding a love note, his wife (Jo Yoon-Hee) takes matters into her own hands and ends up attacking the wrong woman leaving Bong-Wan no way out except to tell the truth. After breaking things off with employee Chang-Sook (Kim Sae-Byuk) the sweet and innocent Ah-reum Song has quite the first day. Starting off with a coffee and a chat followed by being accused of sleeping with the boss, it wasn’t exactly how she’d pictured working for one of her favorite writers.
Notwithstanding a few cuts and edits, director Hong Sang Soo skillfully provides us with beautifully fluid scenes. Whether they are simple, yet affective movements, the man behind the camera Kim Hyung-Ku proves his worth. It’s just a shame the film doesn’t carry such weight for it to truly resonate. At times this feels all too familiar – something we have seen time and time again in both western and eastern cinema that offers nothing new to the table, much like the repetitive amounts of Chinese food and Soju this man consumes. Not to mention the painfully awkward exchanges virtually all characters have throughout. Intentionally placed to make you feel uncomfortable, Hang Soo perhaps draws out such moments for a good minute too long inviting seat shuffling and eye rolls to commence.
Ultimately, this is insightful and it’s hard not to admire what this filmmaker is trying to achieve, albeit this is an acquired taste. There are no frills here, no fancy effects, no elaborate narrative, just an old fashioned storyline of infidelity. The humour works as something of a saving grace, yet still lines seem frustratingly forced and rushed throughout.