I’ve never been a “movie person.”
Stories of all kinds compel me, but I’ve never had any particular interest in, nor attachment to, film. The most commitment I’ve consistently shown is shushing people for talking in a theater, but that’s more about preserving the experience rather than any reverence for the medium itself.
In the past few months, though, I’ve found myself turning to movies. This seems to have been driven by a strange practicality: I’ve no patience for long or overly demanding TV series these days; coming off a trying week (of which there are many), I often don’t have the energy to tackle a book or work on personal projects.
Movies have turned out to be a convenient Goldilocks solution: long enough to serve as useful diversion, but not quite long enough to require sustained investment of resources I don’t have.
So far, this year, I’ve watched:
Promising Young Woman: I loved Carey Mulligan in this one. But as a friend and I discussed at one point, the film itself stuck to its revenge thriller guns so much that it closed off the possibility of healing for Mulligan’s character. What a damn waste, which in some ways is probably the point.
Kim Ji-Young, Born 1982 (82년생 김지영): One of those rare instances when an adaptation exceeds the source material. Similar to Promising Young Woman, the KJY book seemed to have been hemmed in by its genre: the book’s commitment to realism kept it from entertaining possibilities beyond the bleak outcomes that followed so easily from the events it laid out. By contrast, the film makes some slight but crucial tweaks that allow hope to manifest believably onscreen. Optimistic? Maybe, but isn’t it important to envision the outcomes you’d like to work towards?
To All the Boys: Always and Forever: Do we have a running theme here? This is another movie limited by its unwillingness to stray from its initial premise. Its insistence on keeping the Lara Jean/Peter relationship going, largely unchanged, hobbles its narrative from the start. Setting up a conflict that goes wide, fascinating new world vs familiar, comfortable bond works because of the inherent challenge of change and the promise of growth; too many unconvincing shortcuts on that change just makes the “growth” feel unearned. Lana Condor’s charm keeps the movie afloat, but she can only do so much.
Moonlit Winter (윤희에게): Family members in this film are strangers to each other, and yet not as much as they expect. The film is quiet, affecting, and with plenty of emotional depth to drown in, but never as cold as the title implies. When Kim Hee-ae’s Yoon-hee reaches that subdued but lasting moment of self-acceptance, and when she shares that with the daughter (not incidentally named Sae-bom, “New Spring,” played by Kim So-hye) who had so often found her opaque and unreachable — gosh. Their familial dynamic is the core of the film, but major plus points, too, for the fact that the past romance driving events along is queer and deftly, respectfully told.
The Fundamentals of Caring: Another movie that, like To All the Boys (of all the items on this list!), owes a lot to the strength of its casting. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the premise or plot, but the movie elevates its core tropes with some charming irreverence and two mains (Rudd and Roberts) who can pull it off. One review described the movie as very “2004 Sundance,” (Little Miss Sunshine1Yes, I know that came out in 2006, anyone?) which is about as accurate a summary as I can think of.