There is a moment when Seung-chul (Park Jungbum), a North Korean refugee living in Seoul, proclaims to his friend Kyung-chul (Jin Yong-ok) that “he is tired.” While Kyung-chul ignores his pal’s words assuming he just wants to take a nap, it is clear to the audience that Seung-chul’s rage is about to boil over. After being forced to work low-end jobs that only pay four dollars an hour, and constantly being abuse by local thugs, Seung-chul can no longer endure another minute of being stepped on.
The Journals of Musan is blistering directorial debut from Park Jungbum that looks at the hardships that North Korean defectors face living in South Korea. Park Jungbum juxtaposes Seung-chul’s quest to live a simple life in the eyes of God with Kyung-chul’s capitalist ambitions. The tension that arises in their dynamic is thrilling to watch. As is often the case with debut films, The Journals of Musan does run a little long in the last act as it suffers from one too many possible endings. Still, the film is an astonishing debut as Park Jungbum displays the skills of a seasoned director. He really captures the hypocrisy that exist within the various levels of South Korean society. This is especially noticeable in the character of Sook-young (Kang Eun-Jin). An avid church member, she continually berates Seung-chul for his actions, despite the fact that he is often doing what most people would deem as honorable. She projects on him to cover up her own insecurities and flaws. Constantly worrying about what others at church may think, she never takes the time to truly get to know Seung-chul or his plight. The individuals that Seung-chul is forced to deal with on a daily basis provide the film with a rich, and well rounded, texture. To put it bluntly, The Journals of Mulan is a film that should not be missed. It is one of the best films to hit screens this year.
In his dark look at the complexities that exist between friends, director Yoon Sung-Hyun examines the reasons that bring people together and tear them apart? Bleak Night focuses on three best friends, Ki-tae (Lee Je-hoon), Dong-yoon (Seo Jun-young), and Baek Hee-June (Park Jung-min) at an all-boys school. On the surface the boys seem inseparable, but when a death occurs, the fragile nature of their friendship begins to unravel.
Unfolding like a mystery, Yoon Sung-Hyun crafts a film that will require several viewings to truly grasp all the various layers of the boys’ friendship. Bleak Night is a film that takes unexpected turns after leading you in a particular direction for the majority of the film. An example of this is the unstable relationship between Ki-tae and Hee-June. The film is constantly alluding to things between the two which neither boy is willing to speak about. However, the truth about what has made the two so estranged is not as intimate as the film would lead you to believe. While as bleak as its title, Bleak Night is never dull. Though it is debatable whether the mystery is solved in a truly satisfying manner, Bleak Night will, if nothing else, give you plenty to talk about.