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(Movie Review) 'The Day After': Hong Sang-soo's insightful comedy

All News 12:23 June 26, 2017

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, June 26 (Yonhap) -- "The Day After" is a kind of variation on familiar ingredients from the prolific director Hong Sang-soo's typical films. It has an unmanly middle-aged protagonist, booze-driven long conversations between main characters, infidelity and biting humor.

There is, however, one more thing with the new film about infidelity -- his insight into time, life and relationships. He masterfully and delicately portrays the beauty of time spent together but is remembered in many different ways to those involved.

For someone, it may feel like an endless day fraught with humiliating and embarrassing moments. But for somebody else, it could be just another day. So, the memory of the day could easily be forgotten.

This photo, released by Jeonwonsa Film, shows Kwon Hae-hyo and Kim Min-hee as Bong-wan and Areum in "The Day After." (Yonhap)

The director, who has an extramarital affair with the film's lead actress Kim Min-hee in real life, may want to deliver a message through the movie that he will cling to his "true love" no matter what people say about them because they will eventually forget what happened today.

The film opens with Bong-wan (Kwon Hae-hyo), a celebrated author and book publisher, being interrogated at the dinner table by his wife Hae-joo (Cho Yun-hee) over his possible infidelity. He laughs uncomfortably and feigns indignation to avoid the moments, but her intuition is not wrong every time.

The director then quickly cross-cuts between Bong-wan's present of heading to the office in the early morning and his bittersweet memories of his love affair with former assistant Chang-sook (Kim Sae-byuk). She has just quit her job working for him when their relationship falls apart amid recriminations.

This photo, released by Jeonwonsa Film, shows Kim Sae-byuk and Kwon Hae-hyo as Chang-sook and Bong-wan in "The Day After." (Yonhap)

And then the movie enters a new phase with the arrival of the newbie Areum (Kim Min-hee) hired to fill the vacancy left by Chang-sook.

On Areum's first day of work, unfortunately, Hae-joo, who discovers her husband has cheated on her, comes to the office to have it out with her husband. She slaps the innocent Areum in the face and hurls insults at her, mistaking her for Chang-sook.

When Areum says she wants to quit, Bong-wan does everything he can to prevent her from leaving. But he soon changes his mind when his mistress returns and tells him she wants to work for him again.

In brief, the 91-minute black-and-white movie is a dramedy about an unfaithful man trapped between his wife, his mistress and a female assistant. Although the overall tone is dark and gloomy, its dialogues that do not match with the serious situations facing him and his timidness often elicit laughter from the audience.

This photo released by Jeonwonsa Film shows Kim Min-hee as Areum in "The Day After." (Yonhap)

The main story leads to a short epilogue in which Areum drops by Bong-wan's office again many years later to congratulate him on winning a literary award.

The scene where Bong-wan asks her about her personal details temporarily confuses viewers as it is a repetition of the same conversations exchanged at the same place on Areum's first day of work. But we soon realize that Bong-wan remembers nothing about that day or even has any idea of who she is.

It appears to be Hong's scathing satire of Korean society where people like to ask very private questions to those whom they met for the first time and don't remember any of them after their second encounter.

The movie is set to open in local theaters on July 6. It was screened in the official competition category at this year's Cannes Film Festival last month.

sshim@yna.co.kr
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