The central recurring visual in "Another Way" is frozen water. When winter gets cold enough, you can cross on foot and save a little time at the risk of sudden quick death by hypothermia should the ice get thin. The risk seems excessive, but to a depressed person with no real reason to live, the threat is meaningless. That's what life is like for Soo-wan (played by Kim Jae-wook) and Jeong-won (played by Seo Ye-ji). They want to give up, and will take any excuse they can get to accomplish this- even suicide.
The tone in "Another Way" is fairly dismal. Really, I'm surprised that director Jo Chang-ho was able to gain permission to film so prominently in Chuncheon- the script implies that Chuncheon is uniquely well-suited to unobtrusive suicides. This is probably a combination of the area being very snowy and beautiful, as well as the fact that it exists just on the edge of the Seoul subway system. Although you can drive there too, if suicide by inhaling car fumes is more to your preference.
What's really striking about "Another Way" is that the suicide pact between Soo-wan and Jeong-won is so methodical to start out with that the viewer is left wondering whether they similarly thought the whole suicide pact itself through as properly. That much is well cleared up by the opening expository portions of the movie. Soo-wan feels like he's making kind gestures to undeserving strangers. Jeong-won loves her parents, but can't bear seeing them like this anymore. Neither Soo-wan nor Jeong-won have problems that can really be solved.
And don't let yourself be tricked into thinking that "Another Way" is going to be about Soo-wan and Jeong-won solving their problems through the power of love. Life doesn't work like that. When Soo-wan and Jeong-wan finally meet each other in person instead of just through chat rooms, they seem to be testing the idea that maybe there is hope. That there is, in fact, "Another Way". But all they discover is that the pain never really goes away. Life doesn't get better.
It's this aura of sadness that permeates the film's close. The last we get to see of Soo-wan and Jeong-won's faces indicates that this man and woman are completely unsure, even at the end, whether they made the right decision. There's no epilogue informing us of the aftermath of the film's events. It's that fear which prompts suicidal thoughts in the first place- knowing that in death at least, you will know no epilogue.
The material's pretty horribly grim- and yet so is the emotional power. Kudos in that department belong to the understated performances of Kim Jae-wook and and Seo Ye-ji, who very convincingly provide us with the weary faces of those who have lost the will to go on, who can put up that mask of toleration to loved ones, but would much rather just throw it all away. Director Jo Chang-ho doesn't offer us any easy answers here, and it's just as well that he doesn't.
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 Film Review] "Another Way""
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