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"'short sixty seven minute runtime, they feel a lot longer than they really are.
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] "Back from the Beat""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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