In Between Seasons REVIEW: An emotionally charged Korean LGBT film

In Between Seasons REVIEW: An emotionally charged Korean LGBT film

0 comments 📅12 November 2017, 19:19

Director: Lee Dong-eun
 31 October 2017 (London Korean Film Festival)
From: Myung Films Lab
Format: Theatrical Release
Age Rating: 12A

A car crash, the flashing lights of the emergency services, and the sound of footsteps rushing to the scene of the accident, this is how Lee Dong-eun’s moving directorial debut In Between Seasons begins before we are transported to four years before the incident. There we are introduced to middle-aged mother, Mee-kyung (Bae Jong-ok), her son Soo-hyun (Ji Yoon-ho), and his friend Yong-joon (Lee Won-geun), who he has brought to their house and is dealing with a lot of difficulties at home. Based on his own comic book, the film examines the relationship between this trio and the hardships they face, becoming an emotionally charged drama as a result.

From the get-go Mee-kyung and Yong-joon develop a strong bond as the latter’s shy nature draws her to him to the point where she begins to act like a second mother to the troubled teen. With Soo-hyun’s desire to live as a free-spirit, as well as Mee-kyung’s tendency to keep her feelings to herself, Yong-joon also becomes the one keeping them together, even taking the time to bring Mee-kyung to see her son during his military service. So, when it is revealed that it was Yong-joon and Soo-hyun who were involved in the accident that opened the film, and Soo-hyun has been left in a coma, it’s that much harder to accept.

Mee-kyung takes the news hard and is determined to close herself off and shut everyone out, including the injured Yong-joon, so that she can deal with things on her own. It is during this time that she discovers that her son has been keeping his life a secret from her, and that Yong-joon is not just his friend but is also his lover. Partly in reaction to this realisation, but mainly the determination to take on everything by herself, she decides to move her son to a healthcare facility in the mountains and divorce her cheating husband — essentially locking them both away from the outside world. It is at this point that the story really begins, as Yong-joon’s tries to find the pair and become a part of their lives again.

The beauty of this film is the way it handles the fragile relationship between Mee-kyung and Yong-joon, both love Soo-hyun and want him to recover but both also struggle to open themselves up to painful experiences. Like it or not they are very similar characters, and it is thanks to this resemblance that they are able to grow and accept one another, but it is the performances of Bae Jong-ok and Lee Won-geun that really make it work. Bae Jong-ok presents her character with raw emotion and veracity, stealing the spotlight in every scene as her elegance gives Mee-kyung such a strong presence on screen. Her and Lee Won-geun work incredibly well together, and the latter has such a natural acting talent that it makes it obvious why he’s a rising star in the South Korean film industry.

There is a lull in the narrative at its middle point, where things progress at a much slower pace than would be ideal and consist of many scenes that are not essential to the plot. These moments, while important to some characters’ development in the film, could have been cut down on, but thanks to the actor’s captivating performances In Between Seasons still moves and delights viewers. It is also great to see a Korean film that handles LGBT issues with a softer touch, choosing to show the personal journey these character’s go through rather than create a scandal. Lee Dong-eun is clearly a very talented director, and, with another film already complete, we can’t wait to see what else he brings to the Korean film industry.

Written by Roxy Simons

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