Mini-Reviews: London Korean Film Festival 2013

on Friday, November 29, 2013
London Korean Film Festival (Various venues, 7-15 Nov '13) // Words: Maxamillian John

The 2013 London Korean Film Festival passed by earlier this month, and we attended some of the festival's screenings - including Kim Sung-su's stylish thriller, 'Flu', which is also out now in UK cinemas. Here's a brief round up of some of the other films we caught at this year's fest, namely 'Boomerang Family', 'Moss', and 'How To Use Guys With Secret Tips'.

'Boomerang Family'

'Boomerang Family' was one of the LKFF's marquee presentations, and for good reason. Song Hae-sung's family drama is a simultaneously hilarious and tragic film, full of deft character exposition.

We see a film director, played by the increasingly pervasive Park Hae-il, broke and despondent, reluctantly surrendering his life and deciding to go back to live with his mother and his bullying slob of an older brother. Their immodest sister and her impudent daughter then turn up seeking refuge from their abusive domestic life. The family constantly scatters and reunites, fractures and reassembles.

Bickering in films is usually very annoying, but here it’s not so much bickering as it is open and vulgar conflict. The humour is varied, from subtle conflicts in register and pacing to straight up slapstick, and the tragedy of the mother, played by the wonderful Yoon Yeo-jeong, trying to hold her family together is all the more irresistible for it.

The idea of 'Boomerang Family' - that family is created, not just born - is a familiar one, but the mixture of situation and character comedy prevents it from ever becoming boring or cloying. An impressive feat for a family drama!



'Moss' is a polished thriller from director Kang Woo-suk. Park Hae-il stars as a man investigating the circumstances of his father's death, which appear to be intertwined with the secrets of the village where he lived. A resolutely moral preacher, his father became unlikely friends with a corrupt policeman and his henchmen, and the village they founded is an opaque mystery for Park.

There are moments of great comedy throughout the film, and even when scenes are serious or momentous, Yoo Jun-sang, who plays a bitter lawyer, still manages to evoke laughs without ruining the mood - a truly rare treat. The locations are beautiful and create a sense of social claustrophobia and paranoia without being themselves claustrophobic - another difficult trick.

While 'Moss' is a little long and loses pace at times, the depth of character and intrigue, which has a satisfying denouement, will reward your patience, and the visuals are a colourful and atmospheric expression of the plot.


'How To Use Guys With Secret Tips'

The romantic-comedy genre has become so ossified that the mere mention of it can make viewers recoil in horror. So when a rom-com as hilarious as 'How To Use Guys With Secret Tips' comes along, it hits with the force of revelation.

Lee Si-young stars as an assistant director in a film company, toiling in vain for a director who's as unappreciative as he is strange. Despite her talent and ambition, she's passed over for promotions and ignored by the world, pushing her patience and self-respect to breaking point. When she gets sold an old VHS video called 'How To Use Guys With Secret Tips' she starts implementing the dubious advice of the presenter, and finds herself catapulted up the professional ladder and thrust into a burgeoning romance.

Despite the impression that the title might give, it's not a feminist film, nor does it depart that far from the plot expectations you'd have of a rom-com. It's simply the funniest and most visually inventive manifestation of that plot I've yet seen. The physical comedy is sublimely acted, and director Lee Won-suk uses expressionist montages in the manner of Tetsuya Nakashima, to make the familiar seem original again. The creativity is exhilarating, with even leitmotifs exploited for laughs. A fresh and very funny movie.


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