You know you’re watching a Hong Sang-soo movie – and an especially fabulous one in this case – when a filmmaker, over copious quantities of soju in taverns, indulges in rambling conversations with fellow lost souls over everything other than cinema. This whimsical narrative – strangely engrossing and undeniably personal too – made The Day He Arrives a beautiful, melancholic, quirky, amusing, meditative, self-reflexive and absorbing work. Seong-jun (Yoo Jun-sang) had once earned repute as a filmmaker, but is now on an indefinite hiatus on account of loss of artistic inspiration, and has shifted base to the countryside. Hence, when he decides to make a short visit to Seoul to meet his old friend Young-ho (Kim Sang-joong), a film critic, it ends up becoming much more than that, despite Hong’s deceptively low-key portrayal of his protagonist’s brief homecoming and journey back to a past that he’s been fleeing from. He aimlessly saunters along the city’s streets; keeps bumping into a former acquaintance; joins for a raucous drinking session with four young film students; makes an impetuous decision to visit his ex-girlfriend (Kim Bo-kyung) with whom he once had a messy breakup that continues to weigh heavy in his memories; joins for multiple, intimate chats over drinks at a pub with a striking professor of film studies (Song Seon-mi), a former actor and Young-ho, before breaking out for some mournful tunes on the piano; and finds himself getting drawn to the pub’s owner (Kim Bo-kyung) who bears an uncanny resemblance to his ex. The ravishing B/W photography, quietly wistful tone and delightful sense of collective existential ennui, were accompanied by the disarming formal bravado where the sequences often played out like variants in a loop.
Director: Hong Sang-soo
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Romantic Drama
Country: South Korea