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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Island"

2015/12/12 | 662 views | Permalink

K (played by Oh Ji-ho) is a man who seems depressed. So he goes to an island and is depressed over there, instead of wherever it was he happened to be before. The full Korean title to "Island" is actually "The Island Which Steals Time", which I assume is supposed to be a reference to K's inability to get over the grief in his life and just move on. I suspect to many viewers the longer title may be the more accurate one in the sense that "Island" does, for long stretches, appear to do nothing but steal the viewer's time.

The funny part is that, from a cinematographic standpoint, "Island" actually looks pretty good and even accurate. Director Jinsung Park does indeed make "Island" look like an island- not the kind of place where tourist resorts are put up, but where people go to run away from their problems and never really end up succeeding, because most of our problems are internal. That's what depression is, and how people get led into thinking suicide is the answer- it's realizing that you are the breadmaker and your life is the bread, so it's all your fault.

There is definite depth to "Island". As independent films go this one is actually fairly transparent and it's easy to make analogies about it and connect the themes to the broader nature of the human experience. The reason why exposition about what specifically happened to K is so sparse is in part because it doesn't actually matter what K's specific trauma was. He's just exhausted by the crushing weight of life in the wake of tragedy.

The main issue I had with "Island" is that I never found K's problems to be all that interesting. Which is actually kind of cruel and exactly the kind of thing you should never ever say to a suicidal person, but even so. Yeon-joo (played by Moon Ga-young) is in a similar position. While her backstory is almost interesting, the presentation is such that I could never really get all that invested in who she was as a person.

That too, is an easy problem for a movie to have when all of its characters are such blatant ciphers that no one really has much of a personality. The most interesting scenes by far are the ones that really on classic stock tropes- creepy ghost sounds, a random post-traumatic trigger of terrible memories, a meeting with some dumb young punk at the amusement park that's not really all that amusing.

While these are the most interesting scenes, I would not go so far as to write that they are the best scenes, because I suspect the audience best served by "Island" will be the one that wants to wallow in sadness and self-pity for awhile because every so often, everybody needs to see the face of depression for a couple of hours if only to finally get the reminder, at the end, that everything will be OK. Unfortunately I wasn't depressed enough in advance to get much out of "Island", so I can't personally recommend it.

Review by William Schwartz

"Island" is directed by Jinsung Park and features Oh Ji-ho, Moon Ga-young, Kang Pil-suk and Yoon Ji-won.

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