AsianMovieWeb logo
Original Title:

South Korea 2006


Shin Dong-il

Kim Jae-rok
Kang Ji-hwan
Lee Dong-kyoo
Kim Tae-yun
Woo Gi-Hong
Oh Chang-Kyung

Search AsianMovieWeb

Host and Guest

Story: Ho-jun (Kim Jae-rok) is an unemployed film professor who has split up with his wife. He leads a secluded life in a small apartment and hasn't seen his kid for a while already. However, he just wants to be left alone for now. One day, he accidentally locks himself in his bathroom and it seems that he would be spending his last hours there. Fortunately, Gye-sang (Kang Ji-Hwan), one member of Jehovah's Witnesses who was shortly before standing at Ho-jun's door and was being gotten rid of by him, is walking by at exactly that time and saves the unlucky guy. Ho-jun is thankful for what he has done but he isn't willing to be talked into any religion just because of that. Nonetheless, this man cast out by society shows his gratitude by letting the young man become part of his life and goes out doing some things with him. Gye-sang also isn't accepted by society. And concerning him his religion is the reason for that. Thus, these two individuals are looking for something in the other that they haven't experienced for a long time already: sympathy.

Review: Director Shin Dong-il's debut film is a little bit overambitious drama about two indivuduals who find themselves on the losing end during time of recession. The biggest problem of the film is that Shin goes into too many directions at the same time. He works in themes of religion, politics and movie in his work and while doing so leaves open too much what his intentions are by that. At the end you don't know how all of this is supposed to fit together. Maybe the director only wanted to shoot a movie about a growing friendship between two completely contrasting characters and bring some of his thoughts on celluloid as well. That the end product feels incoherent shouldn't make you wonder. Of course, this doesn't mean that the problems Shin touches in his film are uninteresting but they don't stand in the context of a bigger whole, which deprives the film of a lot of its impact.

Ho-jun is a bitter man whose day already starts with being bothered from different directions. In his mailbox he constantly finds the newspaper of the previous tenant, he gets calls from some sex lines on his cell and there are Jehovah's Witnesses standing on his doorstep. In other words, a completely normal day of the average guy. It's just that Ho-jun is in a phase in which he can't cope with such annoyances easily. By mischance, which even within the framework of a movie seems a bit too accidently, Ho-jun locks himself in his bathroom and gets saved by the man whom he has just driven away from his door because he had "good news" for him. However, after that there is no religious conversion of Ho-Jun because God had mercy with him, even though Gye-sang would like him to think that way, but instead we get to see how the two men slowly get closer. No matter how different from one another they may be, they share the same pain and hope to get the strength from one another to keep on living.

Ho-jun really is no easy guy. He can be very quick tempered and so there are also some emotional outbursts in which he gets worked up about the politics of certain movie theaters or in an extremely funny scene he gets into a scuffle in a taxi with another passenger because this older man talks enthusiastically positive about the politics of George W. Bush. Apart from that Shin seems to have fun in mocking Bush on every occasion and of course I'm surely no one to blame him for that but it remains questionable to what extent this fits into the context of the film. At least Ho-jun also makes some sharp statements about the North- and Southkorea issue, but all of this gets mixed up with dialogues about religion and a society in which unequality is omnipresent. In fact, these are interesting dialogues, but they oftentimes feel too forced. This goes even so far that at the end we actually don't know what exactly director Shin wanted to tell us with that. Or maybe there isn't even a message, eventually?

It's easy to sympathize with Ho-jun as he doesn't really differ from your regular guy. Maybe only concerning the fact that he has reached a point in life at which he finally has to take the pressure off himself. This doesn't always happen when time is right and retrospectively he is also quite aware of that, but we still can't blame him for his quick tempered nature. Life doesn't treat him well, but that he isn't the only one when it comes to this is something he has to learn first. He oftentimes drowns in self pity which is something his new friend points out to him in an especially effective scene. People like him like to talk but there is only few action following. Gye-sang makes him see things from a different perspective even if there are some topics that they can't agree on, e.g. religion. Kang Ji-hwan ("Rough Cut") manages as the shy young man, who seems to be a little twisted by his religion (even though this isn't something to be found only when it comes to religion but everything that is in any way practiced fanatically), to prove on more than one occasion that he has his heart at the right place, which makes it possible to connect with him, too.

Considering all the time the movie takes to introduce its characters and let them discuss about this and that in numerous dialogues you have to wonder why "Host and Guest" suddenly shifts up some gears towards the end and works in one twist after the other. The film actually left enough room with its 90 minutes running time for the ending to be more rounded off. But maybe this wasn't possible after all. Since it's not clear what the director actually wanted to convey you have to think that he didn't know himself. That's a pity, as there are some unnecessary loose ends because of this and the viewer gets frustrated, too, as we don't know what the film aimed for.
"Host and Guest" may score at first as a quiet and well done drama about a friendship unfolding between two contrasting individuals, but in the end it gets lost in insignificance as there is too much meaning forced on the audience during the last minutes which makes its impact pointlessly vanish into thin air.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
Buy this movie:

Yesasia Logo