Seoul Searching (2015)
Once again, I found myself volunteering at the Boston Asian American Film Festival. Unlike last year, I managed to see most of the movies that were shown this year. BAAFF 2015 kicked off with Benson Lee’s Seoul Searching.
Seoul Searching follows a group of foreign-born students of Korean descent taking part in a South Korean government-sponsored summer camp to help them connect with their heritage and shows why the program was as short-lived as it was.
Benson Lee aimed to make this movie his tribute to John Hughes (it does take place in 1986 after all) and it shows in the classic Breakfast Club formula of having the characters start off as stereotypes and letting the viewer see that they are in fact more than what is on the surface. Among others we have the the rebellious Sid, the conservative German-born Klaus, the womanizing Mexican-born Sergio, and almost completely American Kris from my own stomping grounds of New Jersey.
With the sheer number of characters, Seoul Searching opened itself to being a collection of subplots. Unfortunately, that’s what its main weakness was. Given the movie’s runtime, I felt like Seoul Searching had more characters than it could handle. It suffered from the same problem that Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace had in that it wasn’t really clear who the main character was. Was it Sid and his inability to adjust to the strict guidelines of the school in Seoul? Was it Kris and her search for her identity? And the gangster rap trio (I’ll be damned if I could tell you what their names were) basically served to be the movie’s Jar Jar Binks.
I will say what stood out to me was how well Kris’ subplot was done. It was the most emotionally trying of the movie’s subplots.
Overall, the movie did well given its budgetary constraints. The characters that had the most screentime were interesting and overall it was beautifully shot (with a very photogenic cast might I add, particularly Jessika Van). The movie was laugh-out-loud funny and dramatic in equal measure, but its main problem was the fact that it simply didn’t have enough script to go around.