The apartment complex that is the backdrop of most of the action in "Sorum" is a dank, unsettling, somewhat discouraging abode. It's the kind of rundown building people who don't have a lot of money end up staying in. Ugly stains, rough edges, and random litter abound everywhere in the building. The walls are an unsightly eyesore- nothing grotesque or horrifying, just kind of ugly. And yet, there's a certain character to it that's a bit appealing. Maybe not so much as a building designed to be pretty, but more so than boring white walls anyway.
That paragraph about as much sums up the film's narrative focus, too. Yong-Hyun (played by Kim Myung-min) moves into this apartment building, and...something ensues. I'm honestly not sure what, exactly. "Sorum" takes us on a tour of what Yong-Hyun's life is like in action, and much like the apartment building where he now lives, there isn't a whole heck of a lot to look at.
It would be misleading to call this movie boring, though. Nothing forcefully jumps out and grabs the attention of the viewer, but the steady continuous pacing works to constantly beg the question of what's going to happen next, mainly because it feels like something ought to be happening, it just never does. The romantic plot in this movie is perplexing in its sheer apparent laziness- and yet never does it ring particularly false or as an excuse to fill up time. There really are people out there who put this little actual emotional investment in their love affairs.
This general theme is consistent even when we leave the apartment building. Practically every place we see is shot and exposed in the same grubby, inexpressive designs. No place that the characters go looks like a particularly fun to place to be, but given that they're constrained by economic realities, it really is the best they can do under the circumstances. A late scene that takes place in a relatively clean, unworn room sticks out mainly because it's so out-of-synch with everything else seen in the film up until that point.
The main complaint I can come up with regarding "Sorum" is that, speaking as someone who spends quite a bit of time in environments that most foreigners would consider unsavory, the slums of Seoul really aren't that bad. Well, today anyway. This movie is a dozen years old, so who knows what's changed since then. Still, people are relatively friendly and well-animated, and there's nowhere near the soul-crushing here that I was accustomed to in American suburban environments.
Of course, that bit of opinion is entirely irrelevant to this movie's merits. As a film, "Sorum" is an effective look at the discouraging underbelly of an apparently pointless life, and the nonchalant actions people will undertake just out of circumstance. It doesn't generate any of the kind of emotions one might be hoping for from a more casually accessible movie about the greater points of fear. Regardless, its thematic elements are solid, and worth the effort for anyone wanting to get a stab at the motivations behind general despondency.
Available on DVD and Blu-ray from YESASIA
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Sorum""
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