At an unassuming dinner spot in Seoul, Freddie (Park Ji-min) is speaking with a number of newly made associates, Tena (Guka Han) and Dongwon (Son Seung-Beom). She is a Korean adoptee raised in France who has returned to her mother and father’ nation—however the causes will not be but clear. Was it to get solutions as to why she was given up? Was it to search out herself? Maybe it was to attach with the tradition that transnational adoption took away from her? On this second, Freddie picks up the soju bottle on her desk. Wait, it’s impolite to pour a drink for yourself, cautions one in all her tablemates. It signifies she isn’t being cared for. Brashly, Freddie pours the soju anyway and drinks it in a satisfying gulp. She has all the time taken care of herself.
In only one early scene, “Return to Seoul” author and director Davy Chou units the tone of Freddie’s go to and several other moments in years nonetheless to return. She immerses herself in a spot of discomfort, one that can carry up repressed feelings for each her and her household. Her reluctance to slot in or observe cultural norms may be seen as western conceitedness, however on the identical time, it’s her means of defending her impartial, free-spirited self in opposition to expectations. She has no real interest in coddling males’s emotions, and there is a restrict to how a lot unhappiness she will be able to take from her guilt-ridden organic family.
Her dad (Oh Kwang-rok) drinks and writes her sorrowful emails expressing his life’s regrets within the hopes to persuade her to remain in Korea. When she briefly stays along with her dad and his household, her grandmother (Hur Ouk-Sook) cries at evening whereas praying for forgiveness. It’s too much grief for Freddie to bear. At one level, she angrily says about her dad, “He wants to grasp that I’m French now. My family and friends are there.” But, her private boundaries are drawn and redrawn as Freddie experiences life, heartaches, and profession paths. In spite of everything, this isn’t a film about Freddie returning to France, it’s about her altering relationship along with her nation of origin and what meaning to her as a lady who travels and loves freely, with few ties to maintain her in anyone place for too lengthy.
By the way, Chou takes Freddie’s journey out of Seoul and into the countryside, giving each her and the viewer a wider scope of her Korean historical past, from the metropolitan capital, the place she’s lastly in a position to get a duplicate of her adoption information to a riverside city the place her father and their household lives. But, in her seek for her origins, she generally appears to be like and acts as an unwilling participant, asking the bus driver to show again to Seoul or dashing to the security of nighttime escapism as shortly as possible when feelings run too excessive.
Together with cinematographer Thomas Favel, Chou visualizes Freddie’s journey below a cloud, with lots of the film’s key scenes going down because the skies are overcast, raining, or when the streets are slicked with rain. The temper is restrained but somber, generally even romantic, given the neon-lit scenes within the metropolis and its nightlife. One of many few instances a scene is brightly lit is when Freddie is speaking along with her adopted mother and father again in France on a hike. It’s a second of readability, however there is a disconnect between the time distinction and what mother and father and their youngster are experiencing. As soon as she hangs up, she is on her own to determine issues out for herself.
So far as sophisticated characters go, Freddie is a powerful mixture of conflicting feelings: indignant, lonely, egocentric, and resentful. However in her occasional susceptible moments, there’s a way of a wounded tenderness, like a bruise that has by no means fairly healed up and can all the time be a supply of ache. Even in Freddie’s cruelest moments, when her antics push away others (and, to some extent, the viewers), there’s an understanding from the actor’s efficiency that her actions are coming from a spot of ache and self-preservation. The function is a formidable task even for knowledgeable performers, however this intricate character is splendidly delivered to life by first-time actor Park. She provides Freddie her scowls, her defensive physique language, and her impish impulses to trigger a bit chaos every now and then. Because the years move within the film, so additionally does Park’s efficiency acclimate, maturing subtly however not a lot that we lose the essence of the character we met pouring her personal soju.
In time, Freddie learns to maneuver and dwell within the locations that made her uncomfortable. For a time, she calls Seoul house; later, it’s only a enterprise journey cease. Her bosses deem her a “Trojan Horse” for her means to maneuver between international locations—however there is a sense within the film that she’s nonetheless a lady and not using a place to name house. Chou’s “Return to Seoul” is an uneasy exploration of the idea of house and the heartache of shedding it, following an imperfect heroine on her emotional journey to discover a house in herself.