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Original Title:
Kimssi pyoryugi

South Korea 2009

Comedy, Drama, Romance

Lee Hae-jun

Jeong Jae-yeong
Jeong Ryeo-won
Park Yeong-seo
Koo Gyo-hwan
Lee Sang-il
Min Kyeong-jin
Lee Sang-hoon
Jang So-yeon

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Castaway on the Moon

Story: Kim Seung-keun (Jeong Jae-yeong) has lost his job, is in deep debt and has a girlfriend who never wants to hear from him again. For Kim there is only one solution to his problems: suicide. He jumps off the bridge of the Han river, yet survives his fall and is washed up to the shore of Bam Island, a small island beneath the bridge across the river and therefore directly in the midst of the large city of Seoul. Still, he is cut off from the outside world and after initial futile attempts to call the attention of ships passing by he decides to lead a reclusive life on the island and leave behind the problems of the big city.
However, Seung-keun isn't unobserved as the girl Kim Jeong-yeon (Jeong Ryeo-won) follows his every step with her camera from her window. Jeong-yeon lives a seclusive life for three years already without ever leaving her room just once. She writes for some fake blog-sites and has a well structured schedule, that can't be disturbed by anything. But as her newest subject of observation, Seung-keun, who she believes to be an alien at first, slowly changes his way of life, she also undergoes a change.

Review: A little bit disappointed by the Korean movie year 2009 I was searching for some good movies. "Castaway on the Moon" was a mere side note, yet the film by chance found its way into my DVD-player and it stands as the Korean surprise film of the year. Unfortunately, you can't call it a surprise hit as the movie flopped at the Korean box office, which once more proves how little the majority of moviegoers knows how to appreciate a good film. Even though you have to admit that "Castaway on the Moon" has its very own unique charm. An unusual comedy, whereas no gag seems to be too wacky to be not included and a drama which sheds some light on topics like isolation and loneliness in the big city. Thus, a movie that also features some melodramatic moments, which are conveyed with heart and a lot of humor.

Even the movie's premise already sounds wacky. A man is washed up on an island which is located just in the center of Seoul! Seung-keun hasn't achieved a lot in life, it even seems as if everything he touches turns to dust or is destined to fail. Therefore, it's no real surprise that he can't even manage to kill himself. Of course, he attempts committing suicide again on the island, yet he has some serious diarrhea which prevents him from leaving this planet. So, he decides to set up a new home and life on the island. At first he is a bit heavy-handed, but as time goes by he proves that he isn't that unskilled in living his life on his very own. He makes use of the things from the river that are washed up on the shore and at some point becomes even capable of catching fishes and birds for lunch. On this small island a loser in respect to his skills of adapting to the ruling society suddenly becomes someone who is actually capable of surviving.

The movie conveys its message in a pretty abstruse and funny way. A packet of black bean powder that is washed up on the shore, symbolizes hope for Seung-keun. Why? Because he has no noodles and so he has to make them himself. But where does he get seed from for growing wheat? You will be surprised how inventive our little Robinson becomes when it comes to proving that he is actually capable of living on his own. Better than all those rich business men in the city with their fancy gold credit cards, cards which are by the way misused by Seung-keun for a pretty gross purpose. Seung-keun's self-chosen isolation becomes all too understandable as he is free from all the falsehood on this island, free from having the feeling to be the taillight in the elbow society out there. Jeong Jae-yeong manages once again, after movies like "Someone Special" and "Going by the Book", to play in a movie with a special appeal and deliver a noteworthy performance in it. Especially the emotional scenes are easy to comprehend without the need of any additional words thanks to his acting. We simply can sympathize with him, even though there is of course some voiceover, too, that adds to the understanding of this character.

The second story thread involves Kim Jeong-yeon, a girl that has shut herself in her room for years and is supplied by her mother with everything she needs without ever coming out a word of lamenting from her mother's mouth. We never get to know why she lives like that, but that's the same with Seung-keun, too. At best we get some hints, but that's always enough to draw our own conclusions. For example, there is a burn on Jeong-yeon's face which is most likely the reason why she avoids other people and prefers to take on different identities on the internet. One of her hobbies is to look at the moon through her camera. Naturally, the moon symbolizes longing, however, Jeong-yeon herself says that she likes the moon so much because there are no people on it.
Jeong Ryeo-won ("Two Faces of my Girlfriend", "My Name is Kim Sam-soon") gives a very introverted and well-achieved performance. If you didn't know, you wouldn't think that she was once a member of the K-Pop girlgroup Chakra. She has become a serious actress who manages to deliver emotional moments as well as Jeong Jae-yeong with her subtle acting.

Jeong-yeon's room is always darkened and when she looks outside then she only does so through the sun visor of a motorcycle helmet for the light of the world not to enter her eyes. Of course some sunglasses also would have done the job, but it's just these small abstruse details that make the movie so funny and special after all.
Seung-keun and Jeong-yeon share the same feeling of isolation and loneliness, even if differents paths lead them to different situations. These two individuals slowly start to communicate with each other. Robinson does so by writing letters into the sand and the girl by sending messages in a bottle. What's interesting is that they both communicate in English. Feel free to interpret. Anyway, a relationship starts to unfold between the two, even if they never see each other. You can call this romance, but without the whole cheesy rest. Only towards the end there is a small turn in the film's atmosphere as the generally wackily funny mood of the movie is spoiled by a bit of drama. However, that isn't really that bothersome and more than anything else easy to cope with as the film's resolution, though it comes a bit sudden at first, is pretty appeasing.

Director Lee Hae-jun, who shot "Like a Virgin" with his brother before this, manages with his actual debut work to create a surprisingly profound movie, which has some lengths at times as Lee loves to capture the characters' emotions in very long shots, but these flaws really aren't that apparent compared to the great rest. More than anything else the pictures have enormous impact on the viewer. A warm brightness floods every scene, which makes you think of "Love Letter" evoking a similar feeling of security and yearning. After this review "Castaway on the Moon" may more sound like a drama, and in its core it undoubtfully is, but actually it's the refreshing humor that makes the film so special. Of course, it also doesn't refrain from implementing some allusions to Robert Zemecki's "Cast Away".
Since this inventive comedy simply deserves more attention and because this is a movie that could finally excite me after a long lean period, I'm gladly willing to be more generous when it comes to the score. Anyway, "Castaway on the Moon" is a movie that fans of more off-beat humor and those who have already experienced the feeling of being isolated from society shouldn't miss. So, it's actually a movie for everyone!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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