Somewhere Over Here

Bottom Line: A relevant portrait of a generation in flux that's hampered by a weak lead performance.

Pusan International Film Festival

BUSAN, South Korea -- "Somewhere Over Here" is another in the apparent trend in Korean cinema that deals with music as healing escape or an aid on the road to maturity. That said, it's not one with enough charm or appealing characters to carry off the lack of forward momentum in the unfocused narrative. As a result, the prospects for the film both domestically and internationally could be limited.

Soo-Yeon (Cha Soo-Yeon) is in her mid-20s and is already stagnating. She lives with her parents while trying to fulfill a dream of a career in music. Problem is, she doesn't act on her self-professed passion and instead burns bridges and alienates herself from her more realistic friends. When she finally gets her shot at breaking into the biz, she chokes on stage and blows it. End of dream.

Soo-Yeon is reminiscent of Jun Ji-Hyun's character in the massively popular (and influential) "My Sassy Girl": She's a young woman who hides her insecurities with bluster and defensive offense. The difference (genre aside) between the two is that Cha is unable to walk the fine line between sympathetic and obnoxious, and from the get-go, Soo-Yeon comes across as petty, childish and selfish, free of the nuance that would make her tantrums and pouting fits seem natural.

Cha's performance isn't aided in any way by her dependence on slack-jawed blankness and head ticks that make her seem more wasted than conflicted. Yu Ha-Jun, as her would-be boyfriend and bandmate Dong-Ho, doesn't fare much better. His penchant for mumbling and shuffling make it hard to understand why he remains attracted to Soo-Yeon after being subjected to insults and indignities. One of the film's low points comes from an AIDS-based running gag regarding Dong-Ho that's simply in poor taste.

Writer-director Lee Seung-Young's script isn't completely at fault. The characters are reasonably well fleshed out, and in stronger acting hands, Soo-Yeon's common modern dilemma could be widely related to; much of "Somewhere Over Here" deals with the crushing uncertainty faced by twentysomethings everywhere. But Soo-Yeon is played so fundamentally unlikable that her suffocating fear and subsequent realization that what could have been her only chance at glory has vanished is less moving than cathartic -- for viewers. It plays like justifiable comeuppance as opposed to the recognizable moment of resignation it should be.

Technically, the film is hit and miss. The HD photography is competent, if conventional, one minute, flat and murky the next. And the music segments are some of the most low-energy ones put to screen in recent memory.

SOMEWHERE OVER HERE
A KM Culture, GSAIM, SFCC production
Credits:
Director-screenwriter: Lee Seung-Young
Producer: Shin Chul
Director of photography: Co Nak-Sun
Production designer: Hwang Ji-Na
Music: Kim Min-Hong
Editor: Kim Woo-Il
Cast:
Soo-Yeon: Cha Soo-Yeon
Dong-Ho: Yu Ha-Jun

Running time -- 107 minutes
No MPAA rating
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