DIRECTOR: DAVY CHOU STARRING: PARK JI-MIN, OH KWANG-ROK, GUKA HAN RUNNING TIME: 1 HR 55 MINUTES
Twenty five year old French woman returns to Korea, the country she was born before being adopted by a French couple, for the very first time. She decides to track down her biological parents, but her journey takes a surprising turn.
Return to Seoul is the latest International Feature submission for Cambodia and it’s such a superb film on the adoptee experience and the challenges of having two completely different nationalities. The film is focused on Freddie, played brilliantly by Park Ji-Min, who was born in South Korea but was dropped off at an adoption agency when she was a baby. After a few years she was adopted by a family and taken to France.
The film begins with Freddie landing in Seoul in an impromptu visit. She was expecting to travel to Tokyo, like she always does, but with a typhoon heading straight to Japan, she changes her flight last minute and heads to South Korea from Paris. She has two weeks vacation and she wants to explore this new country as much as possible.
After meeting some locals at a restaurant close to her hotel, she finds out that the Hammond Adoption Agency is in Seoul. Despite having some reservations, she decides to check out the place to see if she can find her biological parents. The agency has some really strict rules. They’re only allowed to send three messages per year to the parents, and if there’s no response they have to wait a year before contacting them again. And, more importantly, if they respond back stating that they don’t want to see their child, the case is closed and they’re forbidden to ever contact them again.
The journey for Freddie is about to begin.
Davy Chou has created a masterful film about the difficulties of having dual identities and the repercussions that comes with not really fitting in. It isn’t always so simple to figure out who you are or what you want. The film constantly jumps ahead into the future, and every time we see a new glimpse into Freddie’s life. Sometimes she’s a visitor. Sometimes she’s a resident. Sometimes she’s a friend or a daughter. Life doesn’t always go as planned. Nothing is certain in this life. Places change. People change. And tomorrow might be different. For Freddie, she doesn’t know what the future will hold for her, but for now, as she searches to feel complete and whole, she’ll continue her life as if something is missing. And it’s a part of the painful healing process of being adopted.