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South Bound - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Nam-jjok-eu-ro twi-eu

South Korea 2013

Comedy, Drama

Lim Soon-rye

Kim Yun-Seok
Oh Yeon-soo
Baek Seung-hwan
Han Ye-ri
Park Sa-rang
Jeong Moon-seong
Lee Do-kyeong
Kim Seong-gyoon

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South Bound

aka Run to the South

Story: Documentary director Choi Hae-Kab (Kim Yun-Seok) rebels against the government in his movies and privately as well. He hates everything he is dictated to do and even though he can hardly provide for his family with his work he still has build a small fan base around him. His wife Bong-hee (Oh Yeon-soo) was he resistance fighter against the government back when she went to univerity and supports him in his endeavors. However, their daughter Min-joo (Han Ye-ri) doesn't want to have anything to do with all that and moves in with a friend in order to learn for a test. Na-ra (Baek Seung-hwan) is also sick of his father's alternative life model, but he and his small sister Na-rae (Park Sa-rang) eventually have to move into the house of a friend on the island Deul since his parents can't pay the rent anymore. Hae-Kab's grandfather has given the island's residents the land for their own use, but the government and a few businessmen see things differently and want to build a resort with lots of hotels on the island. Hae-Kab and his family prepare to battle the government as they can't just sit around watching for this injustice to happen.

Review: "South Bound" wasn't well received by audiences because of its unusual premise, which is strange since the story is in fact pretty interesting. A modern critical look at the unceasing growth of Korea and capitalism as the contrast to a peaceful family idyll. The socio- and government-critical tone of this comedy-drama is appealing as are the characters, but there is still something lacking in the end. First the movie's intention remains nebulous, second the screenplay is written rather haphazardly and at times it also is a bit volatile. Things you would gladly forgive since the family in the film, the island and also nature create a fuzzy feeling of an idyll. But as a critic you can't help but to notice and point out a few downsides.

South Bound - Film Screenshot 11

Those downsides carry more weight than one would probably would like them to. What "South Bound" lacks after all is emotional impact. Although we are interested in the family and we partly grow fond of it, too, we aren't moved by the end in any way. The ending is not even satisfying either. Too rough around the edges and too clumsily the generally good story has been adapted, especially in the second half. That the movie seems volatile lies also in the fact that only after a while we are taken from the city to the island, realizing that here the actual setting is located after all. Anyway, everything seems to happen too suddenly towards the end and even the character drawings become more shallow. That's strange since the movie is actually based on a novel by Hideo Okuda.

South Bound - Film Screenshot 12

One individual not easy to grasp is Hae-gap. He is a revolutionist, but somewhere he has set his limits only to overstep them later on. Hae-gap's actions aren't always comprehensible because they contradict what we believed to know of him already. Still, Kim Yoon-seok ("The Yellow Sea") makes up for it with his fantastically awkward portrayal most of the time. His character surely doesn't think according to usual norms and to have a father like him may at first seem like an easygoing affair, but at a closer look it can also be very hard. The funny scenes which result from Hae-gap's behavior and unshakable urge for freedom remind us of Kim Yoon-seok's character in "Punch", although this time he isn't equally as charismatic.

Nonetheless, Kim Yoon-seok is the star of the movie. However, besides him there are good supporting characters, too. Apart from Baek Seung-hwan ("Silenced") as the pubescent son there are the two government agents who are convincing, more or less secretly shadowing the family father whereever he goes. Actually, everyone is very likeable and we soon take the whole island to our heart. The vivid green, the cozy home, the feeling of freedom that makes you aware of the most important thing in life - to enjoy your life - seem like a fresh breeze and create a feel-good atmosphere. It's a shame that the mandatory disturbance of peace is absolutely predictable and the confusing finale pales in comparison to the rest of the film.

South Bound - Film Screenshot 13

Female director Lim Soon-rye had already proven with "Forever the Moment" that she is a filmmaker who likes to work with extraordinary stories. Moreover, her strength lies in her characters having rough edges that make them appear more human and thus more charismatic. But this sketchy way of drawing loses its appeal when it comes to the story. Here some finishing touches would have been needed. Furthermore, with its government-critical premise "South Bound" claims to have a profoundness that it eventually can't live up to. Also, this comedy-drama can't move us emotionally the way we expected it to. In fact, this is a movie that deserves an audience. Still, not because it's very particular, but because of the aforementioned flaws it isn't easy to give a clear recommendation.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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