[HanCinema's Film Review] "Between the Seasons"
By William Schwartz | Published on
Hae-soo (played by Rie Young-zin) is a woman in her late thirties who's getting a new start in life by opening up a modest coffee shop. There's an oddly reticent quality about Hae-soo, as if she's hiding something. Enter Ye-jin (played by Yoo Hye-ri), a high school student who's bright, cheerful, and outgoing- yet still at a distance from her peers, much like Hae-soo. Each is lonely in their own way yet obviously incompatible, lesbian love story subtext notwithstanding.
"Between the Seasons" defies expectations in a lot of ways. Though seemingly a story about LGBT social anxiety the conflict is almost entirely internal rather than external. This is most obvious with Ye-jin, whose first attempt at romance involves unsuccessfully trying to date a boy. Ye-jin's attraction to Hae-soo is played off consistently as a girlish crush. This much is obvious to us as viewers and to a lesser extent Hae-soo, who just sees herself as Ye-jin's boss.
But within Ye-jin's heart, the situation is far more complicated, to the point that she doesn't even get a proper character arc. Ye-jin spends the whole movie experimenting with her identity, and never really being satisfied with the answers. Ye-jin's story of growing up is very bittersweet and highly relatable even outside the LGBT elements. Ye-jin's a sweet-hearted girl who's rebelling against a social system she barely understands and consequently not doing a very good job.
There's similar open-endedness in regards to Hae-soo's story- although Ye-jin does not understand this. So much of the earlier part of the movie is taken from Ye-jin's perspective that we're also led to believe that Hae-soo is oppressed somehow, since that's what Ye-jin wants to believe. And while this is sort of true, looking back I realized that Hae-soo was just soft-spoken, non-confrontational, and not very confident in the person she's become. It's telling how at home Hae-soo is in the bustle of the coffee shop, just losing herself in her work.
"Between the Seasons" is a beautiful character study along these lines, with each new action taken by Hae-soo and Ye-jin exposing previous assumptions as unfounded or even dangerous. This aesthetic flows throughout the movie's entire construction. Hyeon-woo (played by Kim Young-min) is a minor character compared to the leading ladies, but even he has this effect, seeming at times dorky or insulting. Yet in the climax he gives a sincere, passionate speech hinting at emotional depths we never could have guessed considering his previous appearances.
For all its mundanity "Between the Seasons" is a superb exposition of existential crisis as its characters ask themselves who they are, and what they want, and never really coming up with a satisfying answer. The movie's title, while bewildering at first, very effectively encapsulates how its characters are at a crossroads. They feel as if they're missing something important, something they need to go forward in life. They don't know if they'll ever find it. All they know is that, eventually, one way or another, life will go on.
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. 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.