In Between Days
2006Director: So Yong Kim
Cast: Taegu Andy Kang, Bokja Kim, Jiseon Kim
dolescent emotional turmoil on the screen in the fifty years since Rebel Without a Cause’s primal, widescreen Dean scream has run the gamut from John Hughes’ pop-laden suburban fantasies to Tsai Ming-liang’s bildungsromans and the observational grunge of Sweet Sixteen and Thirteen. In So Yong Kim’s debut DV feature, built on her background as a timid teen immigrant trying to penetrate a social scene of Korean-American kids, her chosen medium’s strengths probe the symptoms of high-school passion and alienation. The intimacy of video, in scenes frequently less than a minute long, homes in on the everyday banality of hesitant attractions, classroom doodling, domestic boredom and recreational game-playing (in the arcade and the bedroom).
Spending her first winter in a city anonymously played by Toronto, Aimie (Jiseon Kim) tramps through a perpetual blanket of snow and freezing rain, wrapped in an anorak and mostly sticking to the beaten path in her social and geographic wanderings. She spends time at home, diners and parties with best bud Tran (Taegu Andy Kang), a ski-hatted slacker and petty thief whose requests for sex have been batted away, literally, by Aimie. They play verbal footsie with their mutual affection; asked by Tran why she suspects he’s broken up with a girl because of her, Aimie trails off, “Just….”
The camera frequently shares a sofa or bed with this aching, pseudo-platonic pair, as when Aimie wakes to find Tran goosing her chest—“You don’t have anything anyway,” he mutters upon getting slapped. Images of Aimie’s more solitary moments draw the audience past the scrim of this love-hate play; she cancels a class so she can spend the refund on a bracelet for Tran, and she lingers on an overpass to watch commuters leave their evening train, longing for the father who’s abandoned her and her mother, whom she daydreamily addresses in voiceover, behind still images of transmitters and cityscapes: “I have a lot to show you.”
Director Kim’s strength is in keeping this a chronicle of the awkwardness and ambiguity delivered in the title; there’s no Cure song on the soundtrack, but when she’s not able to join Tran for tobogganing or otherwise corral him, Aimie goes to a karaoke parlor alone. (You can’t imagine Natalie Wood or Molly Ringwald opting for that.) Actress Kim makes her scolding semi-mothering of Tran a palpable sublimation of the lust she denies herself, assuring him that a bleeding, infected homemade tattoo she amateurishly inked onto his shoulder blade is just fine, and scowling at a popular girl who has designs on her friend. When Aimie’s actions are meant to carry revelatory significance—she calls her newly dating mom “a whore in makeup,” and filches a stranger’s loving letter to a father from a car whose stereo Tran has jacked—the bluntness seems a misstep. In letting the girl’s character emerge from the accumulated mundanity of a cold season spent in bedroom bull sessions, the pressure of parties, and nighttime bus shelters, In Between Days feels quietly, forcefully true.
In Between Days is currently in limited release.
By: Bill Weber
Published on: 2007-07-26