A Beautifully Universal Slice of Life
A slow burn gem, Moving On is sensitively told and so very relatable.
Here is a family living, struggling and like it says on the tin, working to move on. It’s clear from the opening scene that things have not gone to plan. But every member, even the kids, quietly continue plodding through their frustrations, taking the next step presented.
The film begins with a father Lee Byung-Gi (Yang Heung-Joo) and his children Ok-Joo (Choi Jung-Woon) and Dong-Joo (Park Seung-Joon) almost sneakily moving back to Grandpa Lee Young-Muk’s (Kim Sang-Dong) house. They leave most of their belongings behind in a pile outside their old apartment. It’s as if it’s too expensive to shift or nothing they need.
A short while later Byung-Gi’s sister Mi-Jung (Park Hyun-Young) also shows up with a suitcase. Reminiscent of the sibling relationship in The Savages (2007), a family who hasn’t greatly kept in touch begin to temporarily cohabitate.
Watching them, it’s as if this quintet went to cast boot camp together prior to filming, as every movement seems so real, with a natural cadence. From giggling to bickering to crying, each character is genuine as is the enmeshed ensemble.
Writer/director Yoon Dan-Bi offers a recognisable view of familial relationships, partly fixed on old roles yet aiming to respectfully draw lines and delicately navigate current circumstances. It’s not surprising then that this film has won awards including The Directors’ Guild of Korea (DGK) Award, the NETPAC Award, the KTH Award and the Busan International Film Festival Citizen Critics’ Award.
I especially loved the lighting. Neither bright nor dark, the warm, worn shades of brown in the grandfather’s house felt comfortable and reassuring, like home. A place to rest, if only for a moment. Even the outdoor scenes featured gently lit hours, except when the occasional jolt of intense white was needed to point out a prickly edge or unwelcome turn.
The music too was so gentle as to go fairly unnoticed until the credits began to roll. The exception though are a couple of nostalgia-radio scenes, reminding us upon whose grace they were all living. Otherwise, viewers are left to build their own emotional response without the push of audible cues. Kudos to Director Yoon for trusting her story and viewers enough to get there on our own.
As the story continues its measured pace, each character subtly shifts and adapts to their new normal over the course of the long hot summer. And eventually they arrive at the conundrum every mid-lifer dreads – what to do with an ageing, ailing parent.
For this family unit, much of the pondering happens introspectively rather than via discussion, so we see less of the internal struggle and more of the output, such as it is. Throughout the season, each player has had their ups and downs, sometimes in a slightly frozen mid-decision position today, turning the wheels to figure out what to do with tomorrow.
As in life, particularly today, there are a lot of loose ends. Everyone makes choices and then keeps on going, leaving some things behind, while shifting to focus on the next foreseeable milepost.
Part of the line-up for the 2020 London Korean Film Festival, family drama, Moving On, will be screened at select London cinemas this month. If you’re interested in moving, slice-of-life dramas, it would be worth (safely) watching on a proper-sized screen if you can score a limited ticket.