Don't be fooled by the innocuous title. "Drama Stage - The Picnic Day" is a surprisingly bleak drama wrapped up in pleasant sounding euphemisms. That much is obvious once we realize that the titular Picnic Day refers, not to actual picnics, but to a company that cleans up rooms where people have died- sometimes by natural causes, sometimes not. The main issue for most of the employees at Picnic Day is the rancid smell they have to deal with in the worst rooms.
But for Jae-ho (played by Kim Dong-hwan), it's the emotional aspect of death that hurts the most, especially when it comes to suicides. We see that Jae-ho has a morbid fascination with death that compels him to ruminate heavily on the lives of the people that died. Even though all Jae-ho really has access to are their apartments and possibly a grieving relative, it's surprising how much information that alone can give you.
Jae-ho is not a particularly proactive protagonist. Which counter-intuitive though this may sound is actually a good thing. There's not very much anyone can really do about the approaching specter of death. Indeed, writer Lee Jeong-min-I makes a pretty serious point here about how those who think about death too much are far more likely to do something rash, since the most effective solutions tend to mitigate the worst aspects of death rather than actually solve the intrinsic issues provoking the crisis.
Finding actual good solutions is much, much harder. That process requires sincere acknowledgment of past personal failures. The most powerful scene we get involves Jae-ho prodding for an honest discussion, and when he gets a serious question, the effect is a total emotional gut punch. Of course, the implication of Jae-ho's failure was always there the moment we found out why he was hanging out with this family. Jae-ho just had to decide from the outset that he'd rather feel guilty and helpful than just try to forget about his guilt.
This is also the context in which we should interpret the flashbacks. The opening suicide scene most prominently stands out as the one which really needed further explanation, and once we get it, we see that this is because we look into Jae-ho's memories at the same time he does. Jae-ho's only method of trying cope with death-related issues in the modern day is to remember his darkest hours- that he not repeat those passive mistakes.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Drama Review] "Drama Stage - The Picnic Day""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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