Review by Sean Bugg
Rating: (5 out of 5) [Critic’s Pick!]
Sunday, 10/19/2003, 5:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Lincoln Theatre
Korean with English subtitles
IF NOTHING ELSE, Road Movie knows how to get your attention, opening with an extended, near-brutal sex scene that seems filled with a dirty desperation. Dae-sik is a homeless gay man in Seoul, who after the opening sex scene leaves his distraught partner in the train station, because he doesn’t have room for love in his life.
Meanwhile, financial trader Suk-won has lost all of his and his wife’s money in a business deal gone bad, leaving him living on the streets in shame, hoping for an opportunity to reclaim his life. Dae-sik takes him under his wing, protecting him from the brutality of life on the streets. After Suk-won flubs a suicide attempt, the two leave for on an aimless tour of Korea, along the way picking up the wacky, suicidal prostitute Il-joo.
Although stoic to the point of statuary, Dae-sik slides further into love with the unavailable Suk-won, much to the dismay of Il-joo. Dae-sik’s facade breaks only rarely, but so forcefully that his pain becomes palpable — he is a man who is obviously punishing himself for something in his past, something that has left him afraid to love, yet unable to avoid it.
As the trio moves about the Korean countryside, taking odd jobs to support themselves and engaging in some occasional comic mayhem, some plot threads aren’t as clear as they should be, though it feels more like a lack in the subtitle translations than in the film itself. But the plight of Dae-sik rings true throughout. The final image of Dae-sik finally receiving what he hasn’t been able to ask for is a hauntingly beautiful moment, suffused with tragedy, and impossible to forget.