The Return


Contemporary World Cinema | 2018 | 85 minutes

Stranger Says:

A pair of Danish-Korean adoptees returns to Seoul in an attempt to find their birth parents. The process hasn’t exactly improved while they’ve been away. Malene Choi Jensen’s empathetic directorial debut successfully resides on the tricky line between documentary and fiction—the filmmaker and the majority of the cast are themselves adoptees—with an eye for the fine details. (The scenes delving into the byzantine method of contacting hospitals for records are authentically maddening.) Both insightful and impressively open-ended, with a superbly awkward/cathartic/awkward centerpiece set around an unfamiliar dinner table.

SIFF Says:

A pervasive sense of longing and questions of identity compose this genre-defying film about two Danish-Korean adoptees seeking answers about their birth parents. In an utterly entrancing feature debut, director Malene Choi Jensen uses several details from her own life as the film’s source material. Karoline and Thomas meet at a house for adopted Korean children either visiting or in search of their families as adults. Soon, they’re off visiting adoptive agencies, researching names, and questioning locals, and led to small islands off the coast in search of Karoline’s mother, only to meet dead ends. In many ways, this new country feels completely odd and foreign to them, yet equally like home—as though they belong, even if they don’t know how. Just when it seems their search might leave them in the dark, a beacon of hope appears. A quiet, well-mannered but emotionally stormy meeting ensues that only seems to provide more questions than any finality. Naturalist storytelling infused with interviews of real adoptees creates an immersive film experience entirely unique, neither a traditional feature nor a documentary.

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Film Credits
Malene Choi
Thomas Hwan, Karoline Sofie Lee, Seong In-Ja
SIFF 2018