Review: ‘I Came from Busan’

A grimly repetitive patience-stretcher that's audacious in its intentions but merely numbing as an experience.

“I Came From Busan” opens with a woman screaming in the agony of childbirth. From there, it proceeds to trace the bleakness of her alienated existence, unsullied by anything resembling plot or characterization, making for a grimly repetitive patience-stretcher that’s audacious in its intentions but merely numbing as an experience. Fests familiar with helmer Jeon Soo-il’s previous “With a Girl of Black Soil” could take a look, but it might have been better all around if “Busan” had stayed at home.

Following the birth, In-hwa (Park Ha-seon) hands over her baby for adoption. She unsmilingly wanders around the port area of Busan, hanging out with a friend, Sang-mi (Tae-jung Kim), to whom she barely speaks, and engaging in a relationship of gazes with a young boy. Everywhere there is social unrest, violence and pain, which the helmer, like In-hwa, observes without involvement. Then In-hwa decides she wants the baby back. There are several striking images, some evocative (a silent karaoke shot through a window stands out), but all overstay their welcome. In the final scene, things teeter over into the risible. Grainy lensing adds to the general despair.

I Came from Busan

South Korea


A Dongnyuk Film production. (International sales: M-Line Distribution, Seoul.) Produced, directed, written by Jeon Soo-il.


Camera (color), Kim Sung-tai; editor, Kim Jeong-min; music, Jung Seong-hwan. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (competing), Sept. 25, 2009. Original title: Yeong-do da-ri. Running time: 83 MIN.


Park Ha-seon, Tae-jung Kim.

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