Moving On (2019) | Notes

Moving On (2019) is the first film on Yoon Dan-bi, a quietly told generation-spanning family drama. The story is mundanely straightforward: the grandfather’s health deteriorates with age and he needs support from the family. His divorced son Byeong-ki moves in with his two children: Okju, the adolescent sister who tries to adapt to this new house while she is getting interested in herself and the outer world, and the younger brother Dongju who is a small kid pursuing love, attention, and fun. The detached house quickly becomes a playground for the kids while hosting the longings of the family members. A good example was the leitmotif of the sister’s bedroom that has a nice mosquito net becoming an object of desire for the younger brother. The brother was only able to get inside in the dawn of grandfather’s death.

In an era when more families have to band closer together for economic survival, Moving On is a hopeful, realistic, and relevant story well worth telling. [1]

I don’t know why but I find this story remarkably familiar. Maybe, in the alternative cinema of Turkey we’re a bit accustomed to representations of families in confined spaces dealing with the themes such as growing up stories, films investigating boredom of childhood or daily domestic affairs, the dodgy descents trying to sell their parents’ houses or petty and cute crimes such as stealing from the parents etc. On the other hand, it’s not a national thing, of course, the themes like growing up or old, generational relations, lonely parents, death, moving to a new place are umbrella topics that minimalist cinema likes to delve into without the need of or interest in heavy storytelling. There is no point in comparison but I thought of The Father (2020) while watching this film. How different these films are in terms of their perspectives in total domination of the audience vs. keeping the story really low-key to open up more space for them. I respect both approaches but the “good” ones in either approach manifest themselves in a glance. Moving On was not at that level for me.

A finely polished gem of a film, this modest indie may not have the panache of Parasite but its every bit as good at exploring the effects of poverty within Korean society, often in ways that will feel close to home for viewers all around the world. [2]

Once I was a fan of South Korean cinema during the rise of Kim Ki-duk or Yeopgijeogin geunyeo years, but hardly remember the films I’ve been watching back then. Lately, I haven’t been watching much, only a couple together with Sang-soo Hong’s oeuvre. When thinking about the popular ones, aside from their cinematic achievements, one of the common denominators of Burning (2018), Parasite (2019), and Squid Game (2021) was the determinacy and the role of the class in the stories. Similar to many other countries, South Korea also looks like, at least in its popular representations, it is in a deep economical gap and crisis.

The father and the absence of his wife, as much as the sister’s situation seem to state how relationships, and the overall concept of family has failed during the previous generation, as the endless pursuit for financial success, and the occasional failure to do so, has destroyed it completely. [3]

The personal memorable moments from the film,

  • During a morning in which the father is reading something and Dongju is sleeping in the room, the father pranks the kid by waking him up for school even though it’s summer vacation. Such a delicate scene it was. It’s also not random, later on, it becomes apparent that the founder of the prank was actually the grandfather. Family bonding here.
  • The father makes his living via selling fake sneakers, “they are produced in the same factory”. Okju finds an idea of entrepreneurship here: stealing shoes from the van and selling them to stranger teenagers. She tries to accumulate money via these trades to have eye surgery. Her effort end up in the custody but she puts away life experience instead of money.
  • Okju hanging out the underwear laundry with her mother, what a symbolic but earthly scene it was.
  • As displayed in the featured image of the post, Dongju has two great dance scenes, one during his sister’s birthday one after the funeral.
  • Coming back home, passing next to an ambulance, hearing the sirens, and not noticing anything unusual.

I saw the film in 5. Visionär Film Festival Berlin together with My Mexican Bretzel. It’s funny to see that two films I watched are awarded. I can relate to the animal oracle Paul The Octopus now. The jury had given Moving On the Best Feature Film (Ex Aequo) award with the following remarks:

For its powerful simplicity in storytelling and uniting generations together in a not so assuming way, the Jury decided to award Moving On by YOON Dan-bi. With the filmmakers trust in us as an audience, we were able to feel like this family, this situation could be one of our own, creating a level of empathy that is a feat for a first-time filmmaker. [4]