Davy Chou’s Return to Seoul quickly blooms as a study in contrasts, sublimely juxtaposing character and culture.
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It’s the rare movie that can drop a long-take dance sequence into the middle of a pressing conversation without seeming the least bit mannered or aloof; the rare movie that only feels more honest as a result of its most flamboyant choices, and only makes its heroine more empathetic as a result of how she pushes other people away.
While Chou’s elliptical screenplay gently explodes many preconceived assumptions about the effects of adoption on adoptees, it is too clear-sighted to ignore the fact that whether biology affects identity or not, the mere possibility that such a link exists could exert a powerful attraction on a searching spirit not quite sure what it is searching for.
That the story of someone so off-putting climaxes in a moment as profound and moving as the penultimate scene of Return to Seoul speaks to the subtle power of writer-director Davy Chou’s storytelling and the portrayal by Park Ji-Min, a visual artist making a strong impression in her first screen role.
Like its central character, this film is unconventional, and at times abrasive, but it has a seductive, searching quality and a swell of melancholy which makes for an engaging, if unpredictable journey.