Film

Direction: Davy Chou

with Ji-Min Park, Oh Kwang-rok, Guka Han

Belgium, Germany, France, Qatar 2022, 116', English, French, Korean with english subtitles

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Return to Seoul

201614

OT: Rétour a Séoul

What does happiness look like? The question throbs under the sensuous surfaces and emotionally fraught dialogues of Davy Chou’s resonant third feature RETURN TO SEOUL. Frederique, or Freddie, a young French woman born of South Korean parents revisits Seoul: what starts out as a seemingly casual trip to connect with her cultural past soon ripens into a journey of anguished self-discovery, as Freddie visits an adoption agency and tries to make contact with her biological parents. Expanding the narrative to move briskly through packed days before suddenly leaping years, Chou gives his edgy heroine a lengthy, yet richly nuanced script to work with. In the film, familial love lies in wait, punctuated by new friendships and sexual experimentation, and the need for maternal acceptance, though agonizingly essential, slowly ripens into only a broader search for self-awareness. But how does one become fully self-aware while not understanding one’s origins? Thomas Favel’s quietly attentive cinematography sustains the existential eeriness of Freddie’s quest. Newcomer Park Jin-Min in the title role delivers an exhilarating performance as a rebellious young woman who refuses to be wrecked by the immensity of her longing, yet must learn to acknowledge, and then embrace, her vulnerability.

A soulful exploration of transnational identity and culture clash. - Cinema Escapist

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