[HanCinema's Film Review] "Short Vacation"
By Panos Kotzathanasis | Published on
The story begins in the first-grade of middle school, where a new girl has just transferred. One of the first actions she takes is to join the photography club, which already includes three more girls in her class. The four of them soon become friends, spending their days in the carefree ways most of children their age do. However, the professor in charge of the photography club, as a summer assignment, gives them some old-fashioned analog cameras and asks them to shoot the "end of the world". The girls are perplexed by the meaning of the assignment but soon decide to take the train to Sinchang Station, the last station on Seoul Metropolitan Subway Line 1. Their trip, however, is much more complicated than they anticipated, and soon find themselves stranded in rural areas.
The concept of photography and its implications seems to be the base of the film, while the directors have also added elements of road trip and coming-of-age, as they also deal with the ways kids that age think and connect with each other. The approach is intriguing and results in some interesting comments, as the girls decide that their mothers are always right, or when they realize that they have not matured in the same way or in the same level.
At the same time, however, the film cannot be classified in any of these categories (coming-of-age, road movie) as it seems to focus into the triviality of everyday life, even if the trip adds some elements of agony and intrigue in the narrative. This approach gives it a genuine art-house sense, but at the same time, makes it a bit difficult to get drawn into, especially because nothing in particular is happening. The fact that it stretches for 79 minutes makes this sense even more intense, since the narrative could easily fit in a much briefer screening time.
What definitely works for the movie, on the other hand, is Park Jae-man's cinematography, whose frames seem to be in perfect harmony with the element of photography in the narrative. Particularly the way the rural setting is presented is exceptional, with the lack of people, for the most part, working quite well on both a contextual and a visual level. This prowess finds its apogee on the finale of the movie, with the image there being the most memorable in the whole production
The acting is also on a good level, with Seol Si-yeon, Bae Yeon-woo, Park So-jeong and Han Song-hee-I giving naturalistic performances, highlighting their age with realism, and the directors' prowess in guiding non-actors.
"Short Vacation" seems as a feature that would be better suited for a short film, but the two directors have a good eye for cinematic composition, thus their debut can only be described as hopeful.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
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 email@example.com.