Moving On


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Moving On
"A beautifully observed portrait of a family in crisis."

Right from its opening sequence, which sees a family of four bundle themselves and all their possessions into a small van and leave their family home to drive to grandpa's, Moving On reveals itself as a strikingly beautiful piece of cinema. The long drive along straight roads has a rhythm to it that will pervade what is to follow, creating a sense of mute acceptance in the face of overwhelming change. Dad has gone broke so there is no choice but to move. Grandpa's house is large and comfortable. Circumstances could be worse, but it's the slow build-up of pressure from multiple small things that threatens to break Yoon Dan-bi's protagonists.

For Dongju, who is still a child, carrying around a plush elephant almost as big as he is, the stress is mitigated by a sense of adventure. For his sister Okju, who is going through adolescence, it's one more thing to deal with on top of a mountain of others. She's a generous girl (if not always patient with her brother) but the result of this is that nobody takes her struggles very seriously; when they're worrying about how to meet basic expenses, her longing for surgery that would give her round eyes doesn't even merit a serous conversation, and her self-consciousness about her appearance seems to be invisible to the others. Her mother is gad when she gets a boyfriend but as they discuss it - hanging up their underwear side by side in a scene which makes highlight's the mother's awareness of growing older and ceasing to express her sexuality - the teenager is savvy enough to realise that all is not well in her parents' marriage - something that will, in due course, distress Dongju more than anything else.

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With Grandpa's health becoming increasingly fragile, just as Dongju begins to bond with him, everybody is under constant strain, the kids' aunt providing much of his care but arguing, as a result, that it would be unfair for the house to be left wholly to her brother (in keeping with tradition) after the old man dies. Dad seems to be making little progress in finding another job and Okju, trying to find ways to preserve her social status and provide for her family, becomes confused about her moral priorities.

A beautifully observed portrait of a family in crisis, Moving On explores conflict without ever losing sight of the love that exists between its characters. There are numerous moments of comedy and Yoon has an acute awareness of the joy that can be found in small things. All the actors are impressive and the dialogue, without ever seeming unnatural, is very effective at exploring multiple themes. Although the bulk of the drama takes place within the house, Yoon constructs his scenes in a way that is both visually enticing and narratively efficient.

A finely polished gem of a film, this modest indie may not have the panache of Parasite but t's 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.

Reviewed on: 03 Nov 2020
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Moving On packshot
Okju and Dongju move into their grandpa's house during their summer vacation after their father goes broke... but problems begin with their grandad falls ill.

Director: Yoon Dan-bi

Writer: Yoon Dan-bi

Starring: Yang Heung-ju

Year: 2019

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: South Korea

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