10 Minutes: Busan Review

Visually unarresting and slightly lethargic in its storytelling, the film’s subject matter is ripe for the picking, but director LeeYong-seung only skims the surface of Korean workplace dynamics.

Pedestrian workplace dynamics are front and center in Lee Yong-seung’s painfully average drama.

If The Office were transplanted to Korea and stripped of any humor or irony, the result might be 10 Minutes, a pedestrian if inoffensive story about the trickle down of failure, the pressures of professional success and the clash between fulfillment and duty. Visually unarresting and slightly lethargic in its storytelling, the film’s subject matter is ripe for the picking, but director Lee Yong-seung only skims the surface of Korean workplace dynamics.

As an intern in the media department of a government agency, Ho-chan (Baek Jong-hwan) is also the young breadwinner in his family. Struggling financially and perpetually on the lookout for quick answers and dodging bill collectors, the family’s fractious and demanding nature puts all sorts of stress on Ho-chan and his family, which he bears with silent obligation. But work isn’t so bad. Ho-chan is a hit with his co-workers and seems to be on the fast track to a full time job, when out of nowhere he’s passed over for promotion. The position he was hoping for goes to a young woman, Eun-hye (Lee See-won), who proceeds to upset the balance at the office and inspires petty jealousy and gossip.

10 Minutes isn’t terribly gripping or creative, but Lee and writer Kim Hey-min do manage to encapsulate the closed-door bickering and vicious after-hours chatter of the contemporary workplace. Nowhere is this more perfectly captured than in a sequence at a typical Korean work function, which doubles as an account presentation post-mortem, complete with finger pointing, shaming and buck passing. Aside from that nothing happens in the film that demands sustained attention, which includes Ho-chan’s abandonment of his fight for his job. That the characters are more archetypes than fully realized people doesn’t help matters. Adequate performances and minimal forward momentum keep and emotional or intellectual investment at bay.

New Currents

Cast: Baek Jong-hwan, Kim Jong-gu, Jung Hee-tae

Director: Lee Yong-seung

93 minutes