Korean Films in Review: Night Flight
At first glance Night Flight gives off a soap opera feel with its subdued colouring and generally soft palette, yet stick with this film and allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised as its many intricate layers soon weave elegantly throughout the film. Despite the soft outer shell, Night Flight harvests a darkness that continues to fester throughout the film.
Night Flight is the next feature film from director LeeSong Hee-il (White Night). The film is a bold and beautiful love letter to all South Korean adolescents struggling to find their place, especially those in a minority such as Yong-joo (Kwak Si-yang) and Gi-woong (Lee Jae-joon).
An abandoned gay bar named Night Flight located in downtown Seoul serves as a type of sanctuary for Yong-joo. What is he hiding from? An oppressive society ruled by hierarchy and power; a group that Yong-joo is excluded from as he struggles with his sexuality. Gi-woong’s has found his way through brute force as he has established himself as the leader of a gang of bullies. The two childhood friends find themselves brought closer again as their feelings for each other grow, and soon both begin feeling the weight of society gradually seeping in; they find a degree of refuge in each other’s company.
A common theme among South Korean coming of age dramas is the lack of support and understanding from adults, effectively triggering loneliness. The boys’ issues within the film, including bullying, are brushed off as irrelevant as they are reminded the only goal that is important is academic achievement. Both characters’ parents seem somewhat detached from their children’s lives offering little support or guidance, as we rarely hear Gi-woong’s mother speak up and Yong-joo’s mother is too preoccupied in her own upcoming test to notice the struggle her son is going through.
The school within Night Flight acts as a microcosm for the wider surrounding society. Through it, we witness the weight of the pressures faced by the youths of South Korea as they must continually prove their self-worth through the academic points they earn. There is no room or excuse for any kind of distraction from studies. It is within this environment we also see the hierarchy attempt to gain some control by prying on the weak minorities who, like Yong-joo and Gi-woong, find they have no real place to hide.
What is presented in Night Flight is effortless style captured through graceful camerawork as we follow these two lost youths who wonder curiously throughout the fringes of the city. Despite feeling ostracised and excluded both characters gaze into the dimming sunlight with hope for their uncertain and fading future. Both main leads are engaging and serve up a believable, poetic and solid performance that reeks of future potential. The running time of the film could have been comfortably shortened and there were also a few dodgy sound effects. Yet such a film should be held as a great achievement, as there will be many young lost adolescents able to find the comfort and guidance they may seek from LeeSong Hee-il’s captivating and intimate tale of being in a minority in South Korea.
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