Director Hong delivers his second stunner of the festival with The Day After, a hilarious and profound comedy of errors set in a Korean publishing firm whose unfaithful boss finds his affair, his work life and his personal life crashing together in beautiful chaos.
Kim Min-hee, who also starred in Claire’s Camera (and who you probably know from The Handmaiden), is on a formidable streak right now, smashing out a series of varied and captivating performances. Her serene and spirited presence is probably the best thing about The Day After, but it’s a close contest. The film feels like a stageplay in its tight focus and small cast, with Kwan, Kim and Cho also bringing Hong’s screenplay to life with subtle and hilarious performances.
They balance the tone superbly, swinging from spiralling philosophical conversations into raucous comedy, as the film ascends into glorious farce. One three-way argument at the centre of the film is a particular highlight as mistaken identity meets perfect comic timing to bring the house down.
Hong delivers a masterclass in screenwriting, with a script that fully fleshes out its principal cast despite a tight 90-minute running time. He switches the mood with enviable ease and delights in wrong-footing the audience. Working with DoP Kim, he films in refined black and white images and elegant, mostly static, profile shots.
The recurrence of locations and conversations creates a sense of déjà vu, as Boss Kim (Kwan) tangles deeper within his own mess in an absurd spiral. There are no solutions to be found in his passionate conversations with the women in his life; just more complications.
The Day After is as messy, desperate and hopeful as real life, and twice as entertaining. Not many directors as prolific as Hong are making anything as masterful as this.
CAST: Kim Min-hee, Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Sae-byuk, Cho Yun-hee
DIRECTOR: Hong Sang-soo
WRITER: Hong Sang-soo
DoP: Kim Hyung-koo
SYNOPSIS: It’s Areum’s first day of work at a small publisher. Her boss Bongwan recently broke up with the woman who previously worked there. That same day, Bongwan’s wife finds a love note, bursts into the office, and mistakes Areum for his mistress.