Return to Seoul (2022)

Return to Seoul (2022)

A stunning and subversive tale of a woman in search of her roots

The Very Best



Belgium, Cambodia
English, French, Korean
Hur Jin, Kim Sun-young, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing
119 min


If reinventing yourself every five years or so works for Freddie *and* Taylor Swift, it should probably work for you too.

What it's about

Freddie (Ji-min Park) is a French adoptee who flies to her home country, South Korea, to learn more about her birth parents, but what was meant to be a quick trip extends to an indefinite stay as Freddie embarks on a journey of self-discovery.

The take

In both documentaries and films, adoptees meeting their biological parents for the first time is an event often painted in a sweet light. Never mind the child’s mixed feelings about it or the tragic reality that caused the split in the first place—it’s a reunion between family members, so it must be unequivocally special. In Return to Seoul, director Davy Chou doesn’t just debunk that myth, he subverts it by making the adoptee, Freddie, as unapologetically complex and emotionally enigmatic as possible. She resists affection but wallows in loneliness. She craves reinvention but stays in the same place for years. She’s in constant motion while being absolutely stuck in life. In other words, she’s a realistic embodiment of a person struggling to find some semblance of home. Chou displays an intimate understanding of the foreign experience, and he couples it with captivating cinematography, a rousing soundtrack, and fantastic performances across the board to make a daring, inventive, and thoroughly exciting film. 

What stands out

Park is unforgettable as Freddie. The character is, at once, unpredictable, angry, sensual, and sad, and Park turns in a (debut!) performance that delicately layers all these and more. Often lost in translation, Park uses both the subtle nuances of her expressions and the extreme physicality of her body to fill in the gaps in communication. But she’s especially impressive when she starts dancing. It’s one of the few times she seems at peace, and it’s incredible—holy, even—to witness her fully submit and lose herself to the music.

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