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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Back from the Beat"

2019/03/23

Min-gyoo (played by Kwak Min-gyoo) is a delivery guy who's always practicing for his dream job of being a DJ. "Back from the Beat" explores Min-gyoo's overall mood. Min-gyoo has a passive personality and fairly modest dreams. His girlfriend, art instructor Si-eun (played by Kim Si-eun) is at times annoyed with him for not asserting himself better. But for the most part they have a happy understanding relationship with minor spats that are easily smoothed over.

"Back from the Beat" is about how Min-gyoo's relationships, both with his girlfriend as well as everyone else he knows, changes when his outlook changes from passive to impulsive. It's a really slow change- I'm honestly hesitant to describe it, because the subtlety of the change is how it happens without Min-gyoo even really noticing it. Neither do the other people in Min-gyoo's life, which gives the story's slow progress some sharp poignancy, as it starts to sink how just a slight change in attitude can radically transform a person's life.

The simplicity in the film's honest presentation of modern life for South Koreans in their late twenties really got to me. Filmed entirely in glorious black-and-white, this is the kind of movie where that's as much an economic statement as it is an artistic one. Because I am quite sure that, much like his hardworking protagonists, writer/director Choi Chang-hwan-I was suffering from budgetary problems. Observe the extremely simple, cramped room Min-gyoo resides in, and how he lies with his girlfriend in a bed that's obviously only big enough for one.

All the better for hugging right? I really loved the relationship between Min-gyoo and Si-eun too. They're a couple with strongly shared common interests, part of those interests being concern for each other's general welfare. They are extremely good at communicating and being direct with their feelings- when that's what they want to do. "Back from the Beat" explores how this isn't necessarily always a good thing, letting us see from both sides how awkward it can be when a significant other well-meaningly tries to butt in on your problems.

"Back from the Beat" also deals a lot with the underrated interactions between boss and worker. On the most mundane level, your boss is a person who gives you money. Min-gyoo's first experience with serious assertiveness goes well because that particular relationship is entirely a transactional one. But what about cases where you actually know your boss socially- where he or she is more than just a paycheck. How far can you go? How far should you go?

In this way "Back from the Beat" is a suitably beautiful character study along these lines. Even the abrupt ending, which leaves the movie feeling unfinished, is itself making a strong statement. Min-gyoo, like everyone else, is left at a point in his life where he has no idea what to do next, and it's terrifying. We've all had dark moments like this- and much like "Back from the Beat"'s short sixty seven minute runtime, they feel a lot longer than they really are.

Review by William Schwartz

 

"Back from the Beat" is directed by Choi Chang-hwan-I, and features Kwak Min-gyoo, Kim Si-eun, Yoo Ji-young and Park Ji-hong-II.

 

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