Billed as South Korea’s first “gay movie,” but actually a triangular affair in which one character is bisexual, “Road Movie” slowly gathers dramatic moss once its characters hit the highway. Fests of all kinds remain the natural ambit for this first feature by novelist Kim In-shik which takes a while to reveal its qualities after an unfocused start.
Film opens with a brief but strenuous display of gay sex between hobo Dae-shik (Hwang Jeong-min) and a casual pick-up that presupposes a very different movie from the one that follows. Dae-shik, who’s “tired of love,” meets bankrupt fund manager Seok-weon (Jeong Chan), who’s tried suicide, and at the half-hour mark, they set off south together, falling in with a spacey hooker, Il-ju (Seo Lin, entertaining). Dae-shik’s growing love for Seok-weon remains both unrequited and difficult to understand, especially in the reserved playing by Hwang and Jeong. Pic is strongest as a study of three characters on separate existential journeys, with a more engaging final section (sparer, and more refined) in which Dae-shik visits his sister and her young kid. Originally shot on 16mm, visuals have a suitably rough, cold feel.