Kind of a Korean version of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's masterpiece, "Tokyo Sonata", Sin Dong-il's "Come, Together", offers a realistic view on the concept of family in the contemporary, extremely capitalistic and antagonizing world of the urban centers of the country.
The family in focus consists of the father, Beom-goo, an engineer in his 40s working for a large corporation, the mother, Mi-yeong, who has a job selling credit cards, and the daughter, Han-na, who has just taken entrance exams for the second time.
As the film starts, every one of them comes across a bad scenario, and even worse consequences. Beom-goo is laid off his company after 18 years of service, with no apparent reason. Being a man who considers his work the biggest part of his life, and perceiving himself as the patriarch/provider of the family, he soon becomes depressed, with his emotional situational deteriorating rapidly, eventually including fits of rage and inexplicably extreme behaviour. Eventually, he meets a man from the upper floor in the building, who has a significant impact on him.
Mi-yeong, who also sells cards from another company on the side and even goes to debt herself in order to make the customers buy, faces extreme antagonism from her colleagues, particularly when it is announced that the employee with the most sales will receive a trip to Thailand for his whole family as a bonus. When a colleague "steals" one of her clients, her situation worsens even more, while she also has to face her husband in the house.
Ha-na finds herself, once more, in the waiting list for entrance in the university, with her agony and despair becoming larger and larger as the deadline approaches. The sole way out comes from a friend of hers, Yoo-kyeong, who has followed a completely different path in her life, travelling a lot, and now has a job assembling jewelry for her clients.
Sin Dong-il uses three archetypes of the Korean society to make a number of social comments. In that fashion, the father represents the conservative, white-collar worker, who identifies himself through his job. The mother represents the salesperson that will go to almost any extreme in order to make a sale. The daughter the youth, for whom entrance to a great school is a matter of life and death.
As all three of them find their professional life shattering, Sin makes a point of showing the repercussions obsession with work can have on social life, and the dramatic consequences that any kind of failure in that part can have on the individual. As in "Tokyo Sonata", the three of them start changing and decide to look at life from a different perspective, only after they have reached their nadir, in a series of events filled with death and tragedy. This is where the main message/solution of the film lies, although Sin leaves it somewhat open, if their change benefits them or ruins them financially, eventually. The second solution comes from Yoo-kyeong, who manages to live a happy and contend life, despite being completely outside of what is considered normal life in the megalopolis.
Somewhere among this entire struggle, Sin also managed to fit some humor, through the concept of the two men struggling to reach the ceiling of their apartment with their head by jumping, in a metaphor regarding the futility of constant competitiveness for goal achieving.
Kim Bow-ran's cinematography is quite good, as he manages to portray the feelings and psychological statuses of the protagonists in dark and claustrophobic settings, and the opposite when catharsis finally comes. I felt that Moon In-dae's editing could be a bit tighter, since the film seems to lag during the finale, and in 122 minutes, occasionally exceeds its content.
Being a genuine family drama, "Come, Together" bases much on the performances of the actors and the protagonists do not fail the film at all. Lee Hye-eun as Mi-yeong is impressive as she highlights her despair in both her work and home environment, all the while trying to retain a big smile that will benefit both aspects. The scene where Beom-goo actually uses that against her is one of the strongest in the film. Im Hyeong-gook plays the part of the "ticking time bomb" to perfection, as his deteriorating psychological situation threatens all aspects of his life. Chae Bin as Han-na highlights her growing agony, while the scenes with the girl who actually passed are the zenith of her performance. The prowess of all three comes into place in a fighting scene during the end, where everyone's frustration seems to collide.
"Come, Together" is a very meaningful film that manages to present its message with accuracy and realism, through a distinctively dramatic style that benefits the most from the direction and the acting.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[Guest Film Review] "Come, Together""
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