The troubled souls of Seoul's subway drivers are exposed in the uneven mood piece "Butterflymole." Movie meets with some success as a character study, but basic storytelling here is too often derailed. World preemed at Pusan, pic may appeal to upscale local auds, but looks better suited to tube play and is unlikely to make tracks farther afield.

The troubled souls of Seoul’s subway drivers are exposed in the uneven mood piece “Butterflymole.” First narrative feature by experienced docu and commercials maker Suh Myung-soo earnestly depicts the lives of workers whose above-ground relationships are adversely affected by events below the surface. Movie meets with some success as a character study, but basic storytelling here is too often derailed by repetitive scenes and tangents leading nowhere. World preemed at Pusan, pic may appeal to upscale local auds, but looks better suited to tube play and is unlikely to make tracks farther afield.

Unhurried opening sequence effectively puts viewers in the driver’s seat as trains glide in and out of darkness in Seoul’s underground network. Calm, rhythmic atmosphere is abruptly broken by a passenger suicide. Discussion among drivers and guards in the aftermath reveals most have experienced this horrific event and are suffering the psychological consequences. From here pic divides its time between a young driver with girlfriend trouble and a veteran whose wife has run away.

Vid-lensing is well composed and appropriately gritty, and cast of unknowns carry the day impressively. Tech work is decent, though English subtitles will need another going-over before they’re acceptable.

Butterflymole

South Korea

Production

An Indeunion production. (International sales: Indeunion, Seoul). Produced by Suh Cheon-soo. Directed, written by Suh Myung-soo.

Crew

Camera (Digi-Beta, color), Jeong Wook-jun; editor, Park Dong-in; music, Ki Ho-chang. Reviewed at Pusan Film Festival (Critics Choice), Oct. 13, 2006. Running time: 83 MIN.

With

Pan Young-jin, Park Jin-kuk (Korean dialogue)
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