Writer and director Davy Chou’s film, Return to Seoul, is about Freddie (Park Ji-min), a Korean adoptee raised in France who takes an unannounced trip to Seoul. When the protagonist gets introduced, she is dining (and drinking) with some new friends, Tena (Guka Han) and Dongwon (Son Seung-Beom). She shrugs off the idea they mention about finding her biological parents. She appears disinterested, yet she carries a photo of a baby and a woman she assumes to be her mother. Instantly, she flips off that subject and starts the party by gathering with other singles in the restaurant. It is not hard to detect that she hides her real emotions with alcohol and one-night stands. Park Ji-min is excellent in portraying someone trying to escape from the long-standing pain she is carrying. She thinks this is taking care of herself.

Freddie’s decisions always have a back-and-forth action, including when she pretends to ignore the suggestion of going to the local adoption agency. She changes her mind and goes to ask questions. While searching for family history, she then appears and behaves as if she has no desire to learn the facts.

The search yields a quick response from the biological father (Oh Kwang-rok), who introduces her to the grandmother (Hur Ouk-Sook), half-siblings, and others. The family embraces her fully and wants her to stay in Korea, but it all overwhelms Freddie. She is quite the free spirit, loving and traveling on a whim, and at this point, has seemed to communicate and visit less with her French adoptive parents. She does not receive the same response from her biological mother.

This film is an exploration of her journey to finding her roots and herself, and while this may appeal to only some film fans, it does have universal critical points, and it is not hard to understand the emotions and actions on full display here. The story runs from her youth to a more mature woman, and Park performs well as she changes her behavior and adjusts her life over time. Her personality doesn’t change the core of her always caring for herself and not binding herself to anyone or any place.

MPAA Rating: R Runtime: 115 minutes. The film opens in Austin at the AFS Cinema on April 7th.

Source: Sony Pictures Classics

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