[HanCinema's Film Review] "New Normal"
By Panos Kotzathanasis | Published on
Jeong Beom-shik has already made a name for himself in the horror genre, as the co-director of "Epitaph" and director of "Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum". His newest work, even if still rooted in the particular genre, also signifies a turn towards a different path, particularly since the narrative involves the lives of six people in Seoul, during a timeframe of 4 days, in an era, though, that seems somewhat futuristic.
Hyeon-jeong is watching the news about a series of murders of women, when a particularly insisting fire-alarm technician asks to enter her apartment for a check. Seung-Jin is mocked by his friends for not doing volunteer work and good deeds in general, so he decides to help an elderly woman in a wheelchair. Hyeon-soo is trying to find a boyfriend through a new app, which just notifies its users when a suitable match is somewhere in the area. Hoon, after also learning about this app and the theory of star signs, finds a mysterious letter with instructions on how to find the woman who wrote it, and decides to follow the lead. Gee-jin is an unemployed man-child who spends his time playing video games, at least when he is not stalking the stewardess next door, he seems to have a crush on. Yeon-jin wants to be a musician but she is stuck in her life as a part-time worker on the night shift of a convenience store, having to deal with rude customers every day.
"New Normal" is a genuine mixed bag of a movie. In the first segment, Jeong really seems to be on to something, with his intelligent sense of humor and the rather entertaining twist. The second segment follows in similar paths, particularly for the ending, but the oomph of the first part is obviously not present, at least not as a whole. The rest of the segments become even less impactful, with the combination of Wong Kar Wai/Kim Ki-duk notions not working at all, and the twists essentially looking out of place, not being able to carry the segments fully. The last and biggest part, returns the movie to form to a point, but considering the turn towards a social drama for the most part, seems somewhat disconnected from the rest of the narrative, and the appearance of characters from the previous ones does not help significantly.
As such, the movie ends up functioning more like a collage of different ideas than a compact narrative, essentially an omnibus that tries to appear as a feature. A number of the individual ideas, and particularly the use of humor and the twists are actually great, but in the end, not enough to carry the whole movie from beginning to end, with the middle parts in particular, being of an obvious lower quality.
On the other hand, Ha Da-in's performance in the last part is excellent, particularly in the scenes where she interacts with the customers, while Choi Ji-woo's appearance as Hyeon-jeong steals the show a number of times. The comments regarding assumption (misconception if you prefer) and the blights it creates are quite pointed as much as hilarious in the way they are presented, with this aspect actually connecting the whole film, to a point at least.
Kim Young-min-IV's cinematography is impressive on occasion, as in the peeping scenes for example, but in general, nothing spectacular. Jeong Beom-sik's own editing results in a relative fast pace that works nicely for the narrative, but the aforementioned issues also have to do with the way it was edited, as it would definitely benefit if the first part was larger or at least better connected with the rest of the story, and some of the stories completely missing.
"New Normal" is not a bad film, and some of the ideas presented here are definitely original. However, as a whole it does not make much sense, resulting in a movie that would be better if presented as individual shorts rather than a single feature.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
"New Normal" is directed by Jeong Beom-sik, and features Choi Ji-woo, Lee Yoo-mi, Choi Minho, P.O, Jeong Dong-won, Ha Da-in. Release date in Korea: 2022.
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.