Cannes Film Review: ‘The Day After’

The second of Hong Sangsoo's films at Cannes this year is a minor, monochrome comedy of confusion that sticks agreeably to its comfort zone.

Hong Sangsoo
Kwon Haehyo, Kim Minhee, Kim Saebyuk, Cho Yunhee.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6462506/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_1

If any director should have two films in the official selection at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, it may as well be shaggy Korean iconoclast Hong Sangsoo — a prolific auteur for whom doubling and déjà vu are recurring concerns in his narratives, not to mention for viewers trying to keep pace with his oeuvre. Luckily, there’s little chance of confusing these non-identical twins, even if both star Hong’s current muse Kim Minhee: While “Claire’s Camera” boasts color, French Riviera sunshine and the crossover presence of Isabelle Huppert, his Korean-set Competition entry “The Day After” carries a brisk, wintry monochrome chill. Notwithstanding the external drop in temperature, the latter is breezy business as usual: a loquacious, Rohmer-kissed comedy of missed chances and misunderstandings, in which matters of the heart are drawlingly discussed over lashings of soju. Lacking the emotional and structural complexity of some recent Hong outings, it’s minor even by his minor-key standards, though regular acolytes will drink up.

Cannes programmers may have wrongfooted attendees slightly with their placement of this year’s Hongs. Premiering out of competition the day before “The Day After” — now there’s a Hong title waiting to happen — the droll 68-minute divertissement “Claire’s Camera” appeared to be a mere appetizer for fans, with one of his headier main courses to follow. As it turns out, “The Day After” is a bit longer but hardly weightier. Conceived chiefly as a static series of seated two-person conversations, it’s both stylistically and thematically his simplest film in several years — even Kim Hyungkoo’s black-and-white lensing is more functional than formal. The usual charms apply; they’re just stretched a little thin by the 90-minute mark.

As with many a Hong joint, the story here could really be written on the back of a postcard, with space to spare for drunken terms of endearment. The romantic peccadilloes of Bongwan (Kwon Haehyo), the married manager of an independent publishing house, have created something of a revolving door at the office. Recently, a lengthy affair with his employee Changsook (Kim Saebyuk) has turned sour, causing her to quit her job. Arriving to take her place, oblivious to the circumstances behind the vacancy, is Areum (Kim Minhee), a bright, sensitive aspiring writer who seems securely resistant to Bongwan’s debatable charms. Yet on her very first day, she suffers for her boss’s sins anyway: Having found an old love letter between her husband and Changsook, Bongwan’s wife Haejoo (Cho Yunhee) turns up unannounced at the office and, mistaking Areum for the other woman, full-bloodedly attacks her. The position is, shall we say, short-lived.

On this best form, Hong would make this anecdotal tale of woe a jumping-off point for more complicated games of human nature, but “The Day After” never quite transcends its essential smallness: Intriguing character details, like Areum’s strong religious faith or Bongwan’s rigorous critical sensibility, that promise to grow into more searching thematic inquiries are left mostly unscratched. And while Kwon gets the most to work with of the four principal players, savoring a number of rice liquor-glazed monologues on male romantic befuddlement and self-pity, the women benefit less from the film’s sad-sack sympathies: In particular, the bitterly scorned Haejoo comes off, perhaps unfairly, as a figure of fun.

Even lesser Hong has its lackadaisical pleasures, and “The Day After” has its share of wry musings and twitchy banter between characters to counter its visual stasis and lulling storytelling. It attains a kind of grace, however, in its final act, which all but replays an earlier encounter — Hong’s favorite narrative party trick — in a bittersweet spirit of rapprochement, via an absurd, farcical case of mislaid memory. Kim Minhee’s unique capacity for bemused sadness, more generously showcased in Hong’s last two features, comes to the fore, and with it, this deliberately hiccuping chatterfest finds its lyrical, sorrowful side — a Hong Sung Blue, if you will. It’s not enough to make this Hong Sangsoo film linger in the memory far beyond, well, the day after, but another like it will be along to remind us soon enough.

Cannes Film Review: 'The Day After'

Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 22, 2017. Running time: 91 MIN. (Original title: "Geu-hu")

Production: (South Korea) A Jeonwonsa Film Co. production. (International sales: Finecut, Seoul.) Producer: Hong Sangsoo.

Crew: Director, screenplay, music: Hong Sangsoo. Camera (B&W, HD): Kim Hyungkoo. Editor: Hahm Sungwon.

With: Kwon Haehyo, Kim Minhee, Kim Saebyuk, Cho Yunhee.

More Film

  • Fyre Festival Caterer Receives Thousands in

    Unpaid Fyre Festival Caterer Raises Thousands in Donations on GoFundMe

    As two Fyre Festival documentaries hit the airwaves, a couple who say their credit was ruined due to the Fyre Festival’s lack of payment for their services have raised $54,381 at time of publication on GoFundMe. Elvis and Maryann Rolle wrote on their page that they catered “no less than 1000 meals per day” in [...]

  • DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Producer Confirms Bryan Singer's Reason for Leaving, Says 'No One' Was Attached to Play Mercury

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” producer Graham King provided insight into some of the events surrounding the Golden Globe-winning film Saturday at the Producers Guild Awards Nominees Breakfast, including director Bryan Singer’s departure from the film partway through production. “It’s an unfortunate situation, with like 16, 17 days to go and Bryan Singer just had some issues, his [...]

  • Author Tony Mendez arrives at the

    Tony Mendez, Former CIA Officer Depicted in 'Argo,' Dies at 78

    Tony Mendez, the former CIA technical operations officer who orchestrated the 1980 rescue of six American diplomats from Iran and who was portrayed by Ben Affleck in the Academy Award winning film “Argo,” has died. He was 78. Mendez’s book agent, Christy Fletcher, announced the news on Twitter Saturday morning. More Reviews Film Review: ‘Dragon [...]

  • Glass Movie

    'Glass' to Rank in Top 3 MLK Debuts With $48 Million

    M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is on its way to a solid debut with an estimated $48 million for the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. A sequel to 2000’s “Unbreakable” and 2017’s “Split,” the Universal superhero thriller should bring in around $41 million from 3,841 domestic locations over the Friday through Sunday period. The estimates are [...]

  • China's 'Three Adventures of Brooke' to

    China's 'Three Adventures of Brooke' to Hit French Theaters (EXCLUSIVE)

    Midnight Blur Films has signed a deal with French distributor Les Acacias to release Chinese arthouse drama “Three Adventures of Brooke” in France this year, the Chinese production company told Variety on Saturday. A release date has yet to be set for the film, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival and stars Chinese newcomer Xu Fangyi [...]

  • Noe Debre On His Directorial Debut,

    Top French Screenwriter Noe Debre Makes Directorial Debut, ‘The Seventh Continent’

    This last half-decade, few French screenwriters have run up such an illustrious list of co-write credits as Noé Debré. Thomas Bedigain’s writing partner on Jacques Audiard’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Deephan,” Debra co-penned Bedigain’s own debut, “The Cowboys,” “Racer and the Jailbird,” by Michael Roskam, and “Le Brio,” directed by Yvan Attal. He has now [...]

  • Julien Trauman Talks Survival-Thriller Short ‘At

    Julien Trauman on Survival-Thriller Short ‘At Dawn’

    France’s Julien Trauman has never been afraid to play with genre, and in his latest short, the MyFrenchFilmFestival participant “At Dawn,” he employs aspects of psychological thriller, survival, coming-of-age and fantasy filmmaking. “At Dawn” kicks off the night before when a group of teens, one about to leave town, are imbibing heavily around a beach-side [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content