Return to Seoul Blu-ray Review: A Young Life in Turmoil

We all often wonder who we really are, where we come from, and where we are going. Sometimes we let our insecurities get in the way of our journeys to self-discovery and self-acceptance. This also applies to the role of cultural identity, and filmmaker Davy Chou puts his own spin into this mix with last year’s Return to Seoul, a bitter but ultimately sweet depiction of a young life in turmoil.

Park Ji-min (in a blistering debut performance) is Frédérique “Freddie” Benoît, a 20-something, Korean-born, French woman whose trip to Japan is directed to South Korea due to a storm or a “dare” (as she calls it). She can’t speak that much Korean because French is mostly the only language she knows. In order to understand her place in the world, she decides to find her biological parents. As her journey grows, so does her confusion and dependence on drugs, drinking, and reckless sex. In simple terms, her emotional destination to finding out her true self takes her on newfound and unexpected directions.

The plot is pretty basic, but it definitely goes deeper than that. It’s not just a film about a lost soul; it’s also about cultural crossroads where the language barriers cause loneliness and tarnished expectations for the lost soul at the center of the story.

Park Ji-min’s debut turn is incredible. Her “Freddie” is a character with dimensions: selfishness, determination, impulsion, confidence, sorrow, and acceptance. She may not emote as much as another character like her, but there’s a reason for that. She’s realistically confused, as you would if you were abandoned as a child and adopted, even by loving and caring people. There has been criticism of Ji-min’s performance, but I think it’s a winner. She has a true arc and a constant evolution, especially when the film flash-forwards and jumps from time to time.

The film may run a little too long, but it didn’t really bother me as it does other viewers. It’s smart and a quietly resonant tale of finding your place, identity, and truth in a world that you don’t always understand.

There aren’t any special features (which is unfortunate), just the film’s trailer and previews of other Sony Pictures Classics’ films, such as One Fine Morning, Compartment 6, Parallel Mothers, The Sun, and Living.

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