Still courtesy of TIFF.
Late Autumn begins with a badly beaten woman named Anna wandering through the streets of a quiet Seattle suburb, immediately after having murdered her abusive husband in self-defence. Flash forward seven years and we find Anna serving out her sentence in an American prison, until a phone call with news of her mother’s death gives her forty-eight hours leave to attend the funeral. During her bus ride back, Anna encounters a rakish, pompadour-sporting gigolo named Hoon, and the two spend the days of her freedom together wandering through the recognizable landmarks of the Emerald City.
Although ripe with the somber, elegiac tone popular in Korean dramas, director Kim Tae-Yong takes a surprisingly globalized approach to his story. In addition to Seattle playing itself—quite beautifully, we might add—he cast Chinese actress Wei Tang (Lust, Caution) as Anna. Most of the film takes place in either Mandarin or English, which is an unfortunate turn for Korean beau Bin Hyeong, whose roguish charm as Hoon is muddled in his stilted delivery of an Anglo script. Still, the chemistry that slowly forms amidst Anna’s entrenched silences and Hoon’s constant chatter is subtle, and a treat to watch evolve.
Kim Tae-Yong should be commended for delivering a poignant love story of alienation without once falling back on the easy themes of immigration and exile, and instead focusing on the more universal emotional forces at play. At times, the story begins to quiver under the weight of its prolonged silences and profound stares, but there are enough emotionally charged treats to maintain momentum. Kim reveals his true talents in one brief and baffling interlude where the film does a sudden, unexpected detour into a magical realist ballet, a beautiful glimpse of hidden depths of imagination before immediately righting itself as though nothing were amiss.
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