Seung-hee (played by Kim Yu-ra) is a quiet woman who has recently returned to the family farm on Geoje Island. There's minimal verbal explanation as to why she came back. We just see Seung-hee stew in mild annoyance as she's given instructions for chores. Seung-hee is similarly diffident to typical social interaction. At first glance it seems like Seung-hee has an attitude problem. But as the "Days in a Summer" pass by, we see that in reality, Seung-hee is just an introvert.
Something most movies don't get when they try to be about introverts is that introverts really hate talking to people. They're not neurotic, in a charming way or otherwise. They just prefer to be alone. So it is that writer/director Oh Jeung-suk favors long, unbroken shots of Seung-hee quietly appreciating the scenery. Sometimes it's with her grandmother, other times it's in archaic city streets, sometimes it's near a stone wall, and in the movie's most striking visual, it's on a date at the top of a hill with a magnificent view of the ocean.
Oh, about that date. For awhile it looks like "Days in a Summer" is going to be a romance, as Seung-hee starts hanging out with a fisherman played by Kim Rok-kyung. This man is never actually named in the script, because that's another detail introverts tend not to get hung up on. The closest the movie really gets to a plot is when Seung-hee is trying to learn how to fish. It's a hobby that's well-suited to her personality, and that's really all the motivation we get or need.
Instead the focus is on the subtle details, like how writer/director Oh Jeung-suk eschews close-up shots, obscuring Seung-hee's face as necessary. While this does no good for Kim Yu-ra's exposure as an actress, it emphasizes her introverted mindset and how she never feels like the focus of her own life. An early scene featuring Seung-hee and a friend at a social event with some tourists uses this concealment to excellent effect. Seung-hee quietly endures chatter that is fun to extroverts around her but meaningless to Seung-hee herself.
"Days in a Summer" also works powerfully as a travel movie about the value of getting away from it all. The visuals of Geoje Island are amazing, but more importantly, they're just visuals. Seung-hee doesn't grow as a person by talking with the quirky townspeople but rather by coming to peace with herself and understanding that she is solitary by nature and that's perfectly OK.
"Days in a Summer" is also a very effective demonstration of the appeal of fishing for someone who has never fished. Here it works more like a form of meditation. Seung-hee and the fisherman she hangs out with are less looking purpose and more looking for understanding. Seung-hee doesn't change much over "Days in a Summer" but she does find inner peace and this conclusion is heartwarming in ways far more sublime than what can be hoped for from a traditionally plotted story.
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.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Days in a Summer""
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