A family adjusts to new, crowded living conditions in Yoon Da-bi’s familial drama.
“What’s your family like?”
I moved around a lot as a kid, moving from town to town, and one country to another. A few times my small family unit would briefly stay at the house of family or a close friend, before settling down for a little while in another house. Some vague, obscure feelings from that time period came rushing back to me in the opening scenes of Yoon Dan-bi’s family drama Moving On, which deals with a bankrupt father, Byung-ki (Yang Heung-ju) who along with his two children go to live with their somewhat estranged grandfather (Kim Sang-dong). Not long after, they are joined by aunt Mi-jeong (Park Hyung-young), who is also going through a difficult period in her marriage.
The kids, older siser Okju (Choi Jung-woon) and little brother Dongju(Park Seung-joon) exploring what would be their new home for now struck a chord that resonated with me for a fair amount of this film, but while reviews are meant to be objective art and the way you consume it isn’t. There was something very real about this to me, even though it wasn’t specifically anything I’d actually gone through. I brought it up because while the story felt very familiar to me, it might not to others – though I hope that Yoon’s passion for realism comes across even to those who can’t relate it all. Because realism is at the heart of this story, and permeates every aspect of it, not least of all the relationships and connections between the family members.
The movie’s core strength is in these connections, and the way the main characters influence, help and support one another throughout the story. We see this strongest with the brother-sister dynamics in both the adults and children. Okju and Dongju treat each other the way that siblings at that age do – with rivalry and something of a one-sided power balance but they nevertheless are there for each other, as the only two children around, when they need to be. On the flip side of this coin is the relationship between Byung-ki and Mi-jeong, who understand each other and have supported one another through various problems in their lives. Both pairs of actors work really well with the other, as well and it’s there that Moving On shines strongest.
Director Yoon Dan-bi emphasises the performances by purposefully toning down the rest of the movie experience. There isn’t a lot of visual bravado, as the focus isn’t on that. A director like Noah Baumbach comes to mind – someone who lets the characters, the situation and the dialogue do all the heavy lifting. It’s not always the most engaging of methods (I’m looking at you, Todd Solonsz) but when it’s done well it proves that a film doesn’t have to rely on gimmicks, camera tricks or anything else to hook an audience (though they are welcome).
Moving on won’t convert fans who aren’t into slice-of-life dramas, but that’s OK because it knows what it wants to say and sticks to it throughout. When it eventually finds its focal character in Okju, it comes together nicely. Moving On becomes a story about learning to enjoy and appreciate the little things whenever they come. Tragedy is inevitable, but accepting those around you and opening up to them. Okju is at a stage in her life when she’s questioning everything, and is right to do so. The world is weird, and oftentimes seems incredibly morose. But if you have people to help you through it, you should take the opportunity.
It’s a story that relies entirely on its own charm to draw people in and for the most part it’s pretty successful. It also uses nostalgia for summers long-past by drawing you into the kids’ world more than the adults. Considering how grown-up many of the issues in the film are it’s a surprising take but it works as it makes the audience remember being in those shoes: a kid in a world they don’t understand but are trying to. Moving On might never push the envelope in any direction, but as a slice of life drama it’s affecting, sometimes quite moving and infinitely more genuine than Byung-ki’s Nikes.
Verdict: Moving On’s lack of flourishes and a distinctly small scale won’t keep you on the edge of your seat, but it makes for a compelling, touching drama.
Overall entertainment: 7/10
Family ties: 8/10
Tragedies: One inevitable one. Like you didn’t guess how the film would end.
T-shirt slogans: “Love is so short, forgetting is long” just sort of reads like a literal description of the words.
Goofy dancing: Never fails to bring the mood up. Kiss-ass.
Moving On (2019)
Also known as: 남매의 여름밤
Director: Yoon Dan-bi
Writer: Yoon Dan-bi
Choi Jung-woon – Okju
Yang Heung-ju – Byung-ki
Park Hyung-young – Mi-jeong
Park Seung-joon – Dongju
Kim Sang-dong – Granddad