Contemporary World Cinema | 2016 | 122 minutes
Stranger Says: A South Korean family slowly unravels as they try to keep up in ultra-competitive, ultra-capitalistic Seoul. While the mother resorts to illegally selling credit cards, the daughter considers her prospects without a university degree and the irritable, strict father who’s been fired from his job starts behaving badly. It’s a morality tale about the pitfalls of conformity and consumption and the importance of following one’s own path, and while it’s a worthy message, it also feels reductive—real life is far messier. (KATHLEEN RICHARDS)
SIFF Says:For middle-aged white-collar worker Park Beom-gu, work is his whole identity as a human being. But when he’s suddenly laid off by his employer after 18 years, cracks form in the Park family foundation in this tense drama by director Shin Dong-il (Host & Guest). Beom-gu is not alone in feeling the pressure: His wife, Mi-young, tries to take up the slack by throwing herself into her credit-card sales job, resorting to desperate and unethical tactics, while the couple’s daughter, Ha-na, agonizes over her college entrance exams and a purgatorial college wait list. As the tension steadily rises, each Park is tempted to resort to increasingly desperate measures: Beom-gu becomes obsessed with noises coming from a neighbor’s house; Mi-young’s jealousy of a rival worker turns her office into a toxic work environment; Ha-na starts harboring fantasies of eliminating students ahead of her on the wait list. From this tableau of anxiety, director Shin lets each character’s humanity and dignity emerge. Both a gripping family drama and sharp social commentary on today’s ultra-competitive Korean society, Come, Together shows how working harder does not always lead to true happiness.
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