Castaway on the Moon (Day 64)

Castaway on the MoonMy Opinion: 5.4 || Promising premise that’s betrayed by weak editing and story design — should have been much shorter and more compact. There are touching and amusing elements, but they’re buried by lethargic pacing and strained character development.

TITLE: Castaway on the Moon (Kimssi pyoryugi)
DIRECTOR: Hey-jun Lee
LANGUAGE: Korean | COUNTRY: South Korea
YEAR: 2009
PROFILE: Comedy Romance | 116 minutes | IMDb (8.0)

SYNOPSIS (Courtesy of IMDb): Kim Seong-geun (Jae-yeong Jeong), despondent over being dumped by his girl, decides to end it all by jumping into the Han River, but instead wakes up on a tiny island in the middle of the waterway, now a castaway in the teeming heart of civilization. Part social commentary, part romantic adventure with hints of science fiction, Lee Hey-jun’s film touches on topics ranging from economic disparity to the alienating nature of modern urban existence.

Strengths & Weaknesses: The idea of setting a desert-island story in the middle of Seoul is interesting and could have worked — not just as a comedy and adventure but as a metaphor for modern life. All those elements are there, but Hey-jun Lee, who wrote and directed the film, desperately needed an editor. It’s fine for a movie (especially a comedy) to develop in an obvious direction, but you need to be light on your feet and finish quickly. Lee does nether. It’s a half-hour too long, the plot developments take ages to unfold, and Lee directs with such a heavy hand that he winds up crushing the delicate story he’s trying to tell.

Castaway on the Moon

Based on my recent experience with South Korean films (Mother, The Front LinePieta, PoetryThe Man From Nowhere), I kept waiting for someone here to be disemboweled or shot the though the leg with a nail gun. As it happens, the movie is mutilation-free. However, there is a suffering mother with a far-off expression and (see below) a lonely, depressed girl. Maybe there’s a law requiring them. Whatever the reason, the actresses of South Korea might want to go on strike until they get roles that require something other than forlorn misery.

Characters/Performances: Jae-yeong Jeong delivers a fine performance as our protagonist, Kim Seong-geun, but for the source of his attempted suicide at the start of the film is more sketched than fully drawn. Lots of people owe money and lose their girlfriends without jumping off a bridge. Unfortunately, Lee makes no effort to delve into his character’s alienation or to portray it with any complexity.

Castaway on the Moon

The problem of underdevelopment is even worse with the agoraphobic young woman who will become his salvation. Lee paints her shut-in existence with detail, but the characterization is entirely superficial. She never seems like a real person with a real past, only a useful foil for his castaway — proof that there’s a world of difference between colorful and believable. They’re conceits, not characters, and their relationship, which is meant to be profound, never feels like anything more than a clever plot idea.

File Under: survival, desert island, romance, farming, stranded, modern life, isolation