Stifling, repetitious atmosphere and a confusing script about two women arguing over a debt dull the impact of the robust perfs in “Choked.” Film-school grad Kim Joong-hyun makes a generally auspicious bow here, but pic lacks the polish of other prominent student films, like “Member of the Funeral” and “Bleak Night,” which have made a splash in Busan’s New Currents strand. A Euro fest tour awaits.
After a weight-loss-product pyramid scheme goes awry, charming middle-aged mother Hee-su (Kil Hae-yeon) goes on the lam, leaving her debts to her grown son, Youn-ho (Um Tae-goo). Volatile divorcee Seo-hee (Park Se-jin) is determined to recover the money owed, and is convinced Youn-ho is shielding his mother. Authentic thesping captures the essence of characters caught in a loop of blame and irresponsibility, and the actors’ frequent explosions of hysteria and violence impress. But lack of dramatic progress suggests writer-helmer Kim is as stuck as his characters in terms of where to go with the story, and his docu-like style and near-sepia HD lensing make for a draining and ultimately unrewarding experience.