In the first short film of the omnibus "A Daytime Picnic" director Kang Dong-wan plays with an interesting idea- about how little musical taste matters. When first we see the main family, they are recoiling in disgust about loud music on the way to their family picnic. But then they get to the campsite, and observe a younger couple dressed up in full punk rock costumes take out their baby and move into the neighboring site. This younger couple is actually quite nice and well-adjusted for their strange appearance.
That's the point of the story. Appearances don't matter. The main older family is dysfunctional, and in denial about their dysfunctionality. But their main problem is that they think being functional matters in the first place. They barely even talk to the neighboring punk rock family, and try to avoid discussing their problems with each other. Ultimately this just doesn't work. So on the way home, they do the sensible thing, and admit to enjoying loud music even if that's not really a family activity.
The story's cute enough, it just doesn't really go anywhere. That's a recurring theme in this omnibus. In the second story by director Kim Hal-la we see a bunch of young men mumble about on an extended trip not really doing anything. And really, I can't remember what they were doing all that much either. They attend a little too eagerly to a conversation with an attractive woman. They fight, then kick a ball around. There's a bunch of vomiting.
In other words, they all had a perfect trip. Because that's all it really means to have a trip at that age with no parents in the real world. The whole appeal is that nobody has any idea what they're doing, nor are there any pretensions about having a future. There's being young, and reasonably attractive, and having infinite possibilities. The sinking realizationt that there might not actually be any meaningful possibilities well...that's what you go on a trip to escape from.
The third story from director Lim Oh-jeong takes that perspective and centers it on a couple of more middle-aged women, who aren't quite so good at denying the emptiness inherent in their lives. What starts out as a spontaneous trip never really goes horribly wrong, there's just this sinking realization that their very existence is defined by cycles. In the moment, they always think they'll find something more meaningful- but it never really happens.
None of these movies are as bleak as I'm making them sound. In practice they really play off more as comedies. The down-to-earth gut punches are reserved principally for the endings, yet even these are fairly hopeful in nature. Just enjoying music, enjoying each other's company, or even the unending whining of a domesticated animal...that's where people find reprieves from an apparently oppressive existence. While that may not sound like much for a lot of bad days it's just barely enough.
Written by William Schwartz
"A Daytime Picnic" is directed by Kang Dong-wan, Kim Hal-la, Lim Oh-jeong, and features Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Geum-soon, Kwak Min-gyoo, Yoon Hye-ri, Ryu Kyung-soo, Kim Wook. Release date in Korea: 2019/07/04.
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 email@example.com. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "A Daytime Picnic""
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