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'In Between Days'

2009/04/09 | 557 views |  | Permalink | Source

Directed by Kim So-yong (2006)
Howard Schumann

While many Hollywood movies portray adolescents as either bumbling fools or self assured heroes, Kim So-yong's remarkable first feature, "In Between Days" allows us to see that adolescence can be a strange, disorienting place, filled with loneliness and melancholy. Winner of a special jury prize at Sundance, "In Between Days" is an honest and affecting coming-of-age story about a Korean immigrant girl caught in limbo between the passing of childhood and the onset of maturity. Though not autobiographical, "In Between Days" is a personal film for 40-year-old director Kim So-yong who grew up as a Korean immigrant in East Los Angeles.

Reminiscent of the minimalist cinema of the Dardenne Brothers and Hou Hsiao-hsien, Kim's hand-held camera and long silences create a startling sense of immediacy. The film opens with recent immigrant Aimie (Jiseon Kim), in her parka trudging through the snow in an unnamed North American city. Having moved from Korea with her single mom (Bokja Kim), Aimie attends English classes but is not fully engaged in the process. Torn between dependence on and resentment of her mother and her dreams of reuniting with her father to whom she writes or imagines poetic letters, Aimie's problems are compounded by feelings of cultural dislocation and her inability to express emotion. Her only refuge is Tran (Taegu Andy Kang), a sweet but lethargic Korean boy who, though more assimilated than Aimie, is just as protective of his feelings.

Though Aimie tries to win him over by quitting one of her classes to be able to buy him a chain bracelet, he seems to regard her only as a friend. Much of their time is taken up with the daily banality of waiting for the bus, visits to the video arcade, eating at local fast food restaurants, and being bored. Aimie apparently wants to have a more committed relationship but suggesting a hand job or covertly feeling her breast when she is asleep is about as far as he is willing to go to bring himself to the relationship. Things become strained when Tran flirts with Michelle (Gina Kim), a more Westernized girl and Aimie is seen talking and smoking with a friend Steve at a party. Both Aimie and Tran are uncertain of their feelings and resort to playing mind games and even petty theft that leave the relationship hanging and Kim singing a forlorn song in a karaoke bar - "For your affection, for my love, I find love, I find it gone, covered in tears, covered in tears, only for you".

"In Between Days", named for a hit song by the Cure, was shot in Toronto during the winter giving the film a feeling of forbidding but often exquisite coldness. Kim, whose expressive face acutely reflects her feelings of alienation, was discovered by the director working in a New Jersey cafe while Kang was spotted at a Toronto nightclub. In spite of the fact that neither has acted before, their mostly improvised dialogue is very real and they have excellent chemistry together. Though the film's slow pace may discourage some who do not like to work at watching a movie, "In Between Days" is a thoughtful and intimate drama that reflects the authenticity of Kim's personal experience. It has made me eagerly anticipate her new film "Treeless Mountain", also based on impressions from her childhood, due to open this month.

A-

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