On the Beach at Night Alone is an essay on feelings, their consequences and complications. It proves that even a dying fire still has the ability to scorch.

We meet Youngee, a seemingly popular actress, just after the apparent culmination of an affair with a married man. She has exiled herself away from South Korea, joining a friend in Hamburg so she can spend her days licking her wounds, masking her shame, and wandering the city’s parks and markets. This film is shot as a series of episodic vignettes, capturing odds and ends of days as they flutter by, and offers us the chance to join Youngee on her urban expeditions, sit in on a few cordial (and some not so cordial) conversations between her and friends, and assess her feelings as they continue to confuse and confound her.

Hong Sangsoo doesn’t linger in Germany, preferring to post Youngee back to Seoul, a place where the open sore of an acrimonious breakup is still raw. He shoots nearly the entirety of On the Beach at Night Alone in fastidiously naturalistic fashion. There are few, if any, noticeable cuts in any of the shown incidents. The camera remains a static voyeur, constantly observing and contemplating. Hong occasionally zooms in on a nuance of note, which at times feels awkward, but perfectly reaffirms our own prying tendencies.

Kim Min-hee’s realisation of Youngee is starkly familiar. She infuses her with the hum of sparky assurance that comes with great talent but maintains the chipped fragility synonymous with heartbreak. Kim is able to zoom through the spectrum of emotion, and Youngee is this film: lonesome, even in rooms stuffed with great company, zesty conversation, and brash humour. For all its questions, On the Beach at Night Alone delivers an intensely human experience.



CAST: Min-hee Kim, Young-hwa Seo, Jae-yeong Jeong

DIRECTOR: Sang-soo Hong

WRITER: Sang-soo Hong

SYNOPSIS: An actress wanders around a seaside town, pondering her relationship with a married man.