Boomerang Family (Ageing Family, South Korea, 2013)

Eating together is a defining part of the Boomerang Family's daily life.

Eating together is a defining part of the Boomerang Family’s daily life.

Boomerang Family was shown at Cornerhouse Cinema in Manchester last week as a screening for my Projecting the World evening class. I hoped that it would be an opportunity to watch a ‘mainstream popular film’ from South Korea – and I think that is what we got.

The film’s title in the UK refers to that increasingly familiar concept of adult children returning to the family home when something goes wrong. Here the returnees are a ‘failed’ movie director and a twice married divorcée with her 15 year-old daughter. They join their older brother, who has not been long out of prison, living in their mother’s small apartment. The film has been variously described as a comedy, ‘black comedy’ and comedy-drama. In the early stages of the narrative it isn’t clear where the story might be heading. Although their sister is gainfully employed and seems to have a future and the possibility of a new relationship, the two brothers seem rather aimless. At this stage, the main interest is in the sibling rivalry now rekindled and the film resembles a familiar UK sitcom idea about a dysfunctional family.

Gradually the individual narrative strands for each family member develop separately and then come together with family secrets slowly revealed. The film has been critiqued for ending up as yet another Korean crime drama (still with comedy elements) but I think that the script is quite careful to give each strand its place in the final resolution. There is, however, a disturbing moment when we do wonder if this has become a very dark drama rather than just black comedy. I was relieved that it pulled back as I found myself engaged by the various family members.

I enjoyed the film’s music but I would have to agree that overall the visual style of the film is not distinctive (unlike many South Korean films I have seen). The film is an adaptation of a novel and I understand that the director Song Hae-sung is known for his focus on performances. The film is well-cast and all the performances are indeed strong. I thought at first that the film wouldn’t work for me, but I found myself being drawn in and alongside the performances I think it was the sense of realism and the use of local culture that engaged me. I’m not sure how many DVDs Third Window will sell in the UK, but I’m grateful to get the chance to see the film and it’s very useful to have mainstream films like this on release in the UK.

Derek Elley’s review for Film Business Asia gives more detail and background.

Here’s the Third Window trailer:

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