Ben Oliver

Banner image for Return to Seoul

Return to Seoul

I could cut you out of my life with a snap of my fingers.
15 July 2023

Freddie, a young French woman (Park Ji-min), goes to Korea, the country she was born in before being adopted by a French couple. She tries to reconnect with her biological parents.

Chou structures the film around a few chapters, each taking place a few years apart. And yet it’s an intimate story that closely follows its lead character rather than trying to be an ‘epic’. It’s not a conventional narrative arc - Freddie would rather evade any emotionally awkward conversation and escape into drink and music. She’s almost seeking out her parents in spite of herself.

It’s not central to the film but I loved the take on the role of the translator in conversation and in social situations. Freddie makes a friend, Tena, who helps Freddie with talking to her Korean father. At the family lunch, barbed comments fly from both sides and Tena is there as a buffer to cushion the blow, sometimes ignoring what’s been said altogether. It’s dishonest and perhaps cowardly, but it’s also the sort of social grease that keeps people from falling out.

Park Ji-min’s fantastic performance finds emotional clout through nuance rather than bombastic on-screen antics, yet gives off a chaotic energy that makes Freddie conflicted; fun, but a lost soul.

An unpredictable and engrossing story about returning to a culture that you belong to, but never experienced.