What is the film about?
The First Lap is a drama centred on a young couple, Ji-young (played by Kim Sae-byeok) and Su-hyeon (Cho Hyun-chul). It adopts a slow and leisurely pace, so viewers must have the patience to see it through. The film is extremely focused with the plot centered on visits to each others’ families.
The First Lap is very much a character-driven piece, which invites audiences to invest themselves into the story of Ji-young and Su-hyeon as they deal with generational conflict. Their lives are at a crossroads when Ji-young thinks that she may be pregnant. That is not to say that there aren’t moments of humour here and there. It’s a credit to director Kim Dae-hwan (his previous feature film was End of Winter, 2014) for sticking to a realistic portrayal rather than a melodramic take on proceedings.
Where to watch it
The First Lap is being shown as part of the London Korean Film Festival 2017! The director will be attending the screening at Regent Street cinema for a Q&A session on the 8th November, and the film will also be shown in Manchester (at HOME, 11th November). You can find out exact times and book tickets from the London Korean Film festival website here.
What we liked about The First Lap is having an insight into the pressures placed on young people in Korea. We felt the heartbreak of Ji-young when her mother says ‘honestly, I’m not overly proud of you.’ Within moments of gathering at the dinner table, awkwardness sets in. In a culture where the ideal is to be like everyone else, it can be a difficult burden to feel like you aren’t making the grade. During this visit, there is a pattern of being told what to do and being reminded of expection. No matter how much Su-hyeon tries to laugh it off with humour, it is stifling.
In contrast, Su-hyeon’s family background isn’t as secure as Ji-young’s; his father drinks too much and his mother describes marriage as ‘living hell’. They don’t have much money and are living in a dusty, industrial town. Su-hyeon’s affable demeanour drops for the first time, and it becomes apparent why he doesn’t return home often.
The film seems like it was shot using a hand-held camera; the frames shake slightly throughout, giving it that independent movie feel, and compounds a sense of realism. Nonetheless, some scenes are beautiful, especially one where the family are taking a stroll outside while the sun sets. Each figure is as dark as a shadow, contrasted by the hue of the sky in the foreground. This image of Ji-young’s parents walking in front with the couple behind, effectively illustrates the distance between them, not just physically but emotionally as well. Not a word is said over those few seconds, only the background noise of the wind brushing through the trees and vehicles driving past breaks the silence.
Job security, monetary worries and marriage are topics that are touched on during the film, demonstrating the reality of daily life in South Korea, which can be easily forgotten to those from the outside looking in, lost amongst the glittering lights and hustle and bustle within the cities. However, it is in Ji-young and Su-hyeon’s ordinary moments together that make you smile. No matter whether they are bickering or teasing each other, getting lost in the car or imagining a different life to the one that they have, you feel that everything will be alright because they have one another.
Featured image and in-article image source: © Images are the property of the original owners and were provided by The London Korean Film Festival for use in this review. 05.11.2017. London Korean Film Festival website.