Film Reviews

London Korean Film Festival: In Between Seasons

An Indie drama about damaged relationships and the twin processes of forgiveness and repentance, In Between Seasons boasts an absorbing plot and a solid cast. While it is unnecessarily slow in some parts, the feelings of warmth and affirmation it leaves us with are worth the wait.

In Between Seasons is told by interweaving the present with the past. The non-linearity of the film serves to frustrate us in the moment and enlighten us in retrospect, a process that mirrors the initial strife and eventual closure experienced by its main characters. Beginning with an ambulance arriving at a roadside, we briefly see someone in a hospital bed before a flashback ensues.

“Dynamics shift for the better”

Meekyung (Bae Jong-ok) is an indolent mother who leaves her son Soohyun (Ji Yoon-ho) to his own devices more often than not. Dynamics shift for the better when Soohyun introduces his mother to school-friend Yongjun (Lee Won-keun). The boy is polite and pleasing to Meekyung, while his presence renders Soohyun more animated and talkative. It is not long before Yongjun becomes a part of the family, having lost his own mother to suicide. Scenes of Meekyung’s past affection towards Yongjun are cross-cutted with her current coldness towards him, a result of his involvement in the car accident that led to her son’s hospitalization.

Lee Dong-eun uses the majority of screen time depicting the tensions between Meekyung and Yongjun. Meekyung’s constant relapses in the process of forgiving Yongjun seem excessively drawn-out; she finally allows him to assist in caring for Soohyun only to unfairly vent her frustrations at him mere scenes later. Her response is difficult to sympathise with, even in the light of the fact that her reasons for resenting Yongjun are complex and multi-faceted. In addition to having accompanied Soohyun at the time of the crash, Yongjun knew a startling truth about her son that Meekyung had not even thought twice about: his sexuality.

“[the] Gay relationship serves as a catalyst for twists and turns in the plot”

It is the flashback scenes depicting the budding relationship between the men that are perhaps the most amusing parts of the film. Lee Dong-eun here swaps a high emotional pitch for a more light-hearted and romantic approach. The contrast between the hot-headed and gregarious Soohyun and the reserved and cautious Yongjun serves as the basis for a number of laughs, enhanced by the acting of both Ji and Lee. Yongjun quite innocently converses with another man outside a club only for Soohyun to tactlessly interrupt, trash-talking the man in a petulant burst of possessiveness.

Although homosexuality plays a crucial role in the characterisation of its lead roles, I would not characterise In Between Seasons as a primarily LGBT film. This is because the gay relationship serves as a catalyst for twists and turns in the plot, rather than being a focal point in and of itself. In addition, the film only gives us the briefest and shallowest of glimpses into the homophobic attitudes that prevail among some Koreans.

“The dialogue is crafted beautifully”

It is clear that Lee Dong-eun is not attempting to highlight social ills or change them. His aim is much more personal and introspective-to focus on the mental and emotional struggles of a few select people. While this is a valid goal, it would not have been contrary to it to devote some more attention to how Meekyung’s comes to terms with her son’s sexuality, given that this is such a significant aspect of his identity.

Despite the fact that his direction has room for improvement, Lee Dong-eun ultimately succeeds in moving us. The dialogue is crafted beautifully to accompany the film’s most poignant moments, whether the matter at hand is the brevity of human life or the irony of the comparative ease of being lonely to being together. In short, it is impossible to leave In Between Seasons without finding a kernel of something that resonates deeply within us.

Ayisha Sharma

Image courtesy of Broadway Cinema.

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