Bo-yeong is a writer. Not in any particularly romantic way. She teaches writing classes and seminars. Rather than making grand statements on the human condition or trying to charm us into thinking she's just your typical charming neurotic, Bo-yeong lives a normal, utilitarian life. She's divorced with a daughter and has the usual banal problems of having to deal with car logistics. Bo-yeong's publisher interacts with her, not with long-suffering whimsy, but in the same serious tone you'd expect to comprise discussions that involve her future livelihood.
"The Day After" is not exactly a deep film. The central emotional event upon which everything is ultimately based is surprisingly typical. In the context of a grand narrative, there's nothing particularly special about it. It's the kind of activity people, and especially friends, likely do all the time. Considering who she is, the fact that that Bo-yeong's story is about this one event actually seems a little beneath her.
The brilliance behind "The Day After" is realizing that it was exactly this unremarkable event that was exactly what Bo-yeong needed in her life. We see that Bo-yeong is a very isolated person, and to some extent this is a result of her being a divorcee. But by and large it's her own attitude and her own aloofness that's causing her interpersonal issues. And all of this is based on an inflated sense of self-worth- which, troublingly enough, comes from her own identity as a writer.
Principally this is a film about humility- and the realization that theres nothing inherently shameful about this. Even though the central event behind "The Day After" is so minor, it brings about a subtle but palpable emotional realization within Bo-yeong such that when we finally get to the titular day after, the change in attitude is unmistakable. It's a powerful statement as to the power of genuine honesty- with all the dark humor and unpleasant truths that might entail.
Unfortunately "The Day After" is still fairly flawed. Until we finally get to the central emotional scene, it's really not clear what's going on or why the audience should care. These past events do eventually pay off when it's later contextualized in terms of the issues in Bo-yeong's life- but patience is necessary to get to that point. In addition, the camera and lighting work is in many places amateurish. I felt tremendously awkward in one scene where the camera could be clearly seen in a nearby window.
Regardless, overall it's well-worth the time. I was deeply struck by the extent to which this is truly a women's film. There is very frank, sincere discussion in here that, rather than conforming to quasi-feminist consumerist norms as to the deeper desires in modern women's lives, looks at the way these beliefs shape people without directing guilt at anyone for thinking in the wrong way. I don't actually have anything against these more mainstream storylines. But after a certain point, not everyone is young anymore. And it's nice to get a look at where these beliefs will take people a little further down the line.
Review by William Schwartz
Available in KAFA Films 2008 DVD Collection
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.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Day After""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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