Movies of the Week #11 (2023)

Decision to Leave (2022): IMDb says this is a “crime, drama, mystery” movie. Seriously, no romance? It basically portrays all my romantic conceits in a narratively enticing and visually enrapturing manner, very differently from The Handmaiden, but just as effective. The plot sounds almost banal: a detailist and sleepless detective comes across a mysterious case and becomes enamored by the suspect, a Chinese immigrant whose Korean is “not great”. It then gets enmeshed in a typical Park Chan-wook of a plot, that’s a bit out there, yet makes perfect sense on an emotional level. I’m sure there are some nuances I didn’t quite get on the China/Korea axis, but as far as the drama goes, it’s perfectly constructed to emphasize its tragic core: our desire to defy the incongruity of fate. 9

Disco Boy (2023): Giacomo Abbruzzese’s debut movie follows two seemingly disparate people, worlds apart, risking their lives beneath the mantle of modern colonialism. There isn’t much going in terms of characterization. Aleksei and Jomo are the everyman, thrust into their fates by the randomness of chance, prisoners of the places they were born in. The movie thrives on tension, which is imbued effectively by the phenomenal score signed by Vitalic.It might not always run at the same intensity, leaving room for some scenes that are dry, particularly given how general its characters strive to be. However, Disco Boy is a trip, it plays with your senses and takes you along for a ride that starts out as an age old tale of violence and independence, only to morph into the ambiguity of what conveys meaning to our existence. 7

Oldboy (2003): Rewatching this remastered version of Oldboy felt like a first-time experience – I had no recollection at all of the film, other than the fact that I didn’t like it much. It was immediately obvious for me why: the movie has a contrived plot, full of artifices and over the top scenes that just don’t land with me. However, I did appreciate the visual flair, which confers this iconic feeling to Oldboy. It’s funny that I prefer the less high-octane version of Park Chan-wook, but even after twenty years and moving from adolescence to senescence, my instincts about this one have stayed the same. 7

Missing (2023): I didn’t love Searching, which is a movie that shares a big chunk of DNA with this one – the one word title, the plot, the “gimmick”. However, Missing proved to be the superior movie for me, with very snappy editing and a solid focus on its strengths, alongside a convoluted, but mostly interesting mystery. Plot: when June’s mother doesn’t return from a trip to Columbia with her boyfriend, she starts reaching through the guts of the internet and poorly secured google accounts to make sense of things. Even when it pushes the envelope, Missing doesn’t defy what’s possible, which gives an extra-special sense of dread. Seeing June rock it as a perfect specimen of a digital native is actually exciting and Storm Reid’s performance goes some way towards making the character likable. While I thought the latter twists and turns were too much, this is a movie that knows what it is and finds cheekiness in its tropes. 7

Spoiler Alert (2022): This love story turned cancer story might have flashes of originality, but ultimately succumbs from half an hour of melodrama added at its tail end. The set-up is endearing, as Michael (Jim Parsons) and Kit (Ben Aldridge) meet and then fall for each other, straying from their familiar relationship patterns for the first time. As the focus shifts towards the “spoiler alert”, it becomes difficult to justify the trudge towards the promised finale. The sitcom reimagining of Michael’s (tragic) youth stands out, but alongside his narration of key moments, it all becomes a bit of a distraction. So while the movie is honest enough to engage, it’s not focused enough to be relevant throughout. 6