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Dreamless Drifters Take 'Nowhere' Far

2008/08/14 | 687 views | Permalink | Source

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

There's no breathtaking drama or enlightening moral message, nor does it feature something ingeniously surreal as one might expect in an independent movie. Nevertheless, "Nowhere to Turn" by Lee Seung-young-I is a small gem of a film that shows the art of simplicity and the hallmark of creativity only possible in low-budget projects.

This coming-of-age drama finally meets the larger public since premiering at the 2007 Pusan (Busan) International Film Festival (PIFF). The 29-year-old director writes "youth" all over it: mellow music by indie band Sogyumo Acacia Band heightens the narrative and fresh faces portray unforgettably forgettable, antiheroic personas. While digitally shot, the movie's audiovisuals are surprisingly polished (fine touches by top cineastes like Jo Min-ho and Go Nak-seon) and veteran actors play hilarious cameo roles.

Soo-yeon (Cha Soo-yeon) is an unemployed 26-year-old college graduate unable to abandon her dreams to become a musician. She lives with her parents, but still complains how they refuse to "invest" in her bright future by funding her studies in London.

After some pitiful attempts to raise money by selling her kid brother's video game console and other household plunders, our whiney protagonist gives her family the ultimatum by leaving the house. She takes shelter at Dong-ho's house, taking advantage of her good friend's romantic feelings for her. Dong-ho, just returning to school from the army, also hangs onto his musical cravings by joining a small band.

Meanwhile, Soo-yeon, while still dreaming of London, gets a post at a tiny piano school and strikes the fancy of a sleazy musician, Hyeon (renowned music director Bang Joon-seok makes his acting debut). He offers to give Soo-yeon music lessons but getting her into bed is all he has in mind.

When Dong-ho gets kicked out of his band for not practicing enough and Soo-yeon also gets fired for not doing her job, the two decide to start their own duo and enter a rock music competition.

Although "Nowhere" speaks of growing pains and young dreams and loves, the characters are neither young nor naive ― disheartened by the widening gap between high hopes and stark reality, they increasingly feel that passion is a luxury they cannot afford. What makes the film special, however, is that while it reads like a documentary, the characters are more an expression of the ideal than an imitation of the real. They are quintessential outsiders, who are endearing as much as they are annoying. Rising star actress Cha, disheveled and awkward, breaks away from her almost allegorical feminine roles from "Beautiful" (2008) and "For Eternal Hearts" (2007).

Words, emotions and music meander throughout. While the characters' frustrations are understandable, the film's lack of emotional release is baffling. But the true beauty of "Nowhere's" delicate narrative architecture lies in the unsaid, the hesitations and inaction ― like the all-too familiar, tragicomic moments in life that leave you stupidly staring into space and unable to take a step forward, yet always wanting to travel far away.

These drifters disillusioned by their own dreams will enable the viewer to question his or her own walk of life: "Where you come from is gone, where you thought you were going to never was there, and where you are is no good unless you can get away from it", wrote American novelist Flannery O'Connor ("Wise Blood") ― "In yourself right now is all the place you've got".

In theaters Aug. 21. 106 minutes. 15 and over. Distributed by Indistory.

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