A riveting Park Ji-Min plays an acerbic, Korean-born, French-adopted Gen Zer searching for her identity in Davy Chou’s disquieting drama “Return to Seoul.” The latest film from the French-Cambodian director of 2016’s “Diamond Island” premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes earlier this year and is now a Film Independent Spirit Award nominee for Best International Feature. Exclusively on IndieWire, watch the official trailer for the film below.
Park stars at the 25-year-old Frederique, or Freddie as friends call her, who takes an impulsive trip to South Korea for the first time after spending the first quarter-century of her life in France with the French parents who adopted her. While in Seoul, she gets in touch first with her biological father, with whom she has a fractious first meeting after it’s revealed he’s been making drunken, late-night phone calls begging her to return “home” so he can help her marry a Korean man. Freddie finds herself adrift in South Korea, at first unable to get in touch with her biological mother, and so she vows to stay.
Chou was inspired by a Korean-born, French-raised friend’s own personal story. Park, who moved to France when she was 8, brought a similar background to the script, which Chou spent three years working on before casting the artist-turned-actress. Park brings a restless spirit to her character’s postures toward gender, identity, and femininity. The movie, shot by DP Thomas Favel and edited by Dounia Sichov, takes an in-the-moment approach to the storytelling, a collection of scenes often broken up by Freddie’s abrasive behavior or, in one moment, a dance sequence, because why not? At one point, Freddie tells a man she is not an artist, but you wouldn’t be wrong to assume so, as she certainly has an artist’s temperament.
IndieWire’s David Ehrlich wrote out of Cannes, “That ‘Return to Seoul’ ends on a note as wracked and ambivalent as the ones that crescendo towards it might frustrate anyone still waiting for a cleaner sense of catharsis, but Chou’s plaintive coda feels like a resoundingly true finale to the story of a woman who’s driving forwards in reverse, and won’t know where she wants to go until she can see the full view of who she’s always been.”
Following raves out of its festival run, “Return to Seoul” opens from Sony Pictures Classics in NY and LA on February 17 after a qualifying awards run in December. “Return to Seoul” is representing Cambodia in the Best International Feature Oscar race.
Sony Pictures Classics