Eun-soo (played by Woo Mi-hwa) is an older schoolteacher. Ye-won (played by Lee Yeon) works at a casually branded clothing store. They're lesbians who first met in high school when Eun-soo was Ye-won's teacher. Exact details about when and how their relationship advanced to live-in status are kept deliberately vague. The dramatic impetus ends up centering entirely around a tragedy unrelated to their homosexuality, as "Take Me Home - 2020" turns into a story about grief, rage, and change.
In the grief department "Take Me Home - 2020" is unflinching. The tragedy is not sugar-coated, allowing for an easy transition to rage. Eun-soo is angry about what has happened and refuses to be comforted. In a brutal moment of nasty self-sacrifice, Eun-soo demands that Ye-won leave. Eun-soo questions their entire relationship and Ye-won never gets close to rousing her with an inspiring speech about true love or any such nonsense.
That realism is the main powerful quality "Take Me Home - 2020" has when it comes to drama. Neither Eun-soo nor Ye-won has much in the way of social graces. They're clumsy and awkward even with each other. Is this because they're lesbians? Well, as it turns out Eun-soo and Ye-won themselves aren't really sure on that point. So it's easy to see how Eun-soo's public timidity pre-tragedy transforms into outright doubt post-tragedy.
The main unifying element allowing for a possible happy ending is Eun-soo's niece Soo-min (played by Kim Bo-min-I) who is indisputedly in a much worse situation than either adult character. Yet even here, writer/director Han Jay offers no pretensions of a magical solution powered by love alone. While Soo-min is a sweet, harmless child, she is still a child. Soo-min is fragile and vulnerable. And in a situation like this, there's no guarantee that love alone is enough.
"Take Me Home - 2020" is a tremendously frustrating movie. The whole situation seems like it's going to play out romantically and that just never happens. "Take Me Home - 2020" can't even really work as a social justice flick either, since its deliberately vague about how much the lesbian stuff even matters. A late scene involving child grabbing sort of seems to be a comment on Korean intolerance of homosexuality, but the framing is deliberately ambiguous about who insisted on this tragic situation and why.
"Take Me Home - 2020" is also ambiguous on whether its characters are making good choices or bad choices. The movie ends without a clear long-term resolution regarding any of the three key character relationships. Are they family? Were they ever? Will they be a family in the future? It's not satisfying for us as viewers to have to go without a clear answer on these questions.
But then, try thinking about how much more unsatisfying it must be for Soo-min in that exact situation. Her fate is unknown and unknowable to the point that her own horrifying wish, created by the unfortunate wording of a well-meaning adult, provokes contrition even to the jaded, cynical Eun-soo. In that regard writer/director Han Jay certainly makes a better point by leaving us hanging on purpose.
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] "Take Me Home - 2020""
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