Long-lost friends reunite in intriguing dramaAlong with the stages of life we pass through and the different paths we choose to take, our good friends come and go. Some friendships end too soon, for reasons beyond our control, and one has to wonder what would happen if a long-lost pal showed up in your life once again. Will you pick up where you left off?
At this year’s Pusan International Film Festival, Korean director Whang Cheol-mean brought us his interpretation of this scenario in “Moscow” (the Korean title of the film translates to “One Sheep, Two Sheep,” and the name Moscow is an allusion to a Chekhov play, but more on that later).
The film’s two friends are played by Sung Soo-jung and Lee Hye-jin, who, as far as this fairly fresh-off-the-boat critic can tell, are both fairly unknown actresses in South Korea. But maybe not for long: Both absolutely shine, and I would suggest “alchemy” as a word to describe the chemistry between them.
In Moscow, which takes place in Seoul, the two were once ostensibly inseparable friends during middle school. But the family of the character played by Sung had less money, and she eventually had to move to another town. She also had to drop out of college, eventually finding a job as a factory worker. But falling victim to an “irregular worker” law, she’s laid off.
Lee’s character, on the other hand, was able to finish college - earning an acting degree - and now lives a fairly modest life in Seoul. She lives by herself in a tiny apartment and works as a secretary at a major corporation. One day, she’s called to the lobby only to see her old friend standing there.
The two friends begin by catching up over food and drinks, eventually making their way back to the apartment of Lee’s character, where they sing school songs, dance and reminisce. After the the slumber party ends, Lee suggests that Sung stay for a while.
When Lee takes Sung to see a play starring an old classmate, Sung is overcome with inspiration, realizing that she wants to become an actress. She decides to audition for an upcoming play: Anton Chekov’s “Three Sisters.” But that’s when Sung creeps over a line. Once a welcome guest, she slowly becomes an intruder into Lee’s life. She’s not just encroaching on physical space, but on ambition as well.
As mentioned, the title Moscow refers to dialogue in the Russian play Three Sisters. In the play, the city represents the hopes and dreams of the title characters, where they will find happiness, and themselves. In the film, it is likewise, and watching these two fresh Korean actresses find their Moscow is funny, sad and never boring. Lee makes the simple act of buying a sweet potato sound like a campfire story, and the expression on Sung’s face seems to always bear the joy and pain of life. Director Whang films his subjects with such care and precision that almost every shot conveys a feeling. Make sure to catch this when it hits theaters.
Drama / Korean
Premiere at PIFF; wide release TBD
By Andrew Siddons [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Actresses Lee Hye-jin and Sung Soo-jung try to figure out life and friendship in “Moscow,” which premiered at PIFF last weekend. Provided by PIFF