The cliche of that one amazing romantic night that changes everything is a pretty common one. Of course, those of us who live in reality know better than to actually believe that, but the various characters of "One Night Only" are young people who only have dreams to cling on to. This is because like most young people in the developed world today, they really don't have much in terms of long term prospects.
Also, they're gay. This is relevant mainly in the sense that these characters are more likely to define themselves in terms of sexual identity because hey, they live in Korea, and that's as good a way to think you're special as anything else. So they bum around from place looking for that special moment of happiness, and never really manage to find it. Upon the conclusion of both short films, there's a definite sense of emptiness as the characters realize, you know, gay sex doesn't solve all of life's problems.
"One Night Only" is actually a surprisingly conservative film given how much gay sex plays into the proceedings. There's multiple uncomfortably passive encounters where a young man just seems content to let other guys feel him up, and it's not totally clear what pleasure he's actually getting out of the exchange. A memorable night spent clubbing ultimately just ends up reenforcing the fact that the quality of people you meet at clubs tends to be, well, dubious. Itaewon ain't all it's cracked up to be.
I should note, by the way, that this is not one long film but two short ones. The first segment, directed by Kim-Jho Gwang-soo, is one of those introspective independent movies about generally unhappy people who are friends yet get mad at each a lot because, well, mostly because there isn't anybody else for them to get mad at. It's the same drill as a lot of independent films, but the short length presents this one from overstaying its welcome too much.
The second film, directed by Kim Tae-yong-I, has more going for it on objective merits because for most of the piece the characters are at least optimistic about that one special night. The ordering of the two movies is somewhat peculiar, now that I think about it. It would make more sense to have the disillusioned piece follow the one where everybody is more brightly optimistic. Unless the ordering was actually intended to make us realize that the guys in Kim Tae-yong-I's story might be setting their hopes about the city a little too high.
Either way, as a complete product "One Night Only" is a fairly effective piece of work. It's really nice to see young, gay ambivalence outside the context of heterosexual oppression. Don't get me wrong- that can get to be pretty bad, but a lot of gay films make the mistake of defining their characters too much in relation to society. "One Night Only" has no such illusions. Its characters are here, they're queer, and they're still getting used to it.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "One Night Only""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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