Castaway on the Moon (2009): Hae-jun Lee’s world is a very strange place. Two equally lonely and unsettling souls find a charm in their being in their disconnected world. Aliens in their homeland and scared of being outspoken. The impaired functioning of an associated life juxtaposed with a retrospect of finding the heart in the most lonely of moments. Even the prosaic chores of the day inherit the ‘perfect boredom’. Lee paints a soul-felt tale of character progression and social preclusion.
A life of heavy debts, consenting failures and relationship collapse does the perfunctory exhaust of the remnant hopes of a man. Crushed by the teeth of depression and betrayal, where does life go from here? The suicidal instinct goes mobile. Looking down the bridge, Kim sees a body of water waiting and steadily shaking with its breeze-like tides. Ending his phone call and grasping the sides of the bridge for a moment, he takes a deep breath. And on the next camera instant, he’s off the grid.
There’s something about Jae young’s (Kim) character. Even in his dolor, he is a delight to watch. Fluid flow through character development is just one of his attributes. Capturing the emotive tension of a stranded man is another. Jae does not grasp at straws. He takes one, architects it into a thread, and offers you the other end to hold and jump aboard. It’s as lovely and sweet as being given that irresistible toffee as a kid. Deny it, pretend to hate it, but you sure as hell cannot stop yourself from taking it.
Soaked front, back, and through, Kim is on the shore of an island. “Can’t even die.”, hopeless Kim attempts to find a way out to the city life visible. Each corner of the island he travels gets him to a similar destination. The water body separates city life and Kim he cannot dive into. Making the most of his next-to-dead cell phone, he calls for an emergency, but to no avail; his call-ups do not buy the ‘stranded on an island’ thought. On a deserted island that is defunct of basic necessities and has no way to escape, Kim’s stomach groans a mortifying screech. “Always diarrhea or constipation.”
“What, am I a castaway?”
Kim does not know he has an equally hopeless female image somewhere in the city, confined to her room. Following her daily routine, she wakes up, eats, does her ‘job’, exercise, and sleep, all in her room. Ryeowon’s honesty in her performance is what blew me away. She walks in her self-made outcast character’s shoes like a natural. Ryeowon’s version of a hikikomori girl, scared of opinions and approval, is fantastic. It’s all a step up when her telescopic adventures through the city cross paths with Kim’s obsession with Black Bean Noodles.
“I wish the world would freeze like this. So life would be 1/6th lighter”
The thing with Castaway on the Moon is it has only two characters. I have ever hardly felt more connected to any characters than Jae and Ryeowon. The conversion of their complex lives into a secluded, hustle-free world of happiness remains one of the best build-ups I’ve seen. Their ways of relay and heartfelt connection carve out the path for brilliant chemistry. The electricity is so well-circuited that I wouldn’t be surprised if people took Moon off as another romantic enterprise.
More than a movie, Castaway on the Moon is symbolic. A distinctive take on the necessity of basic needs and how we take them for granted. Crawling, screaming, or ignoring, we all get by our formulaic day. But at the end of it, the founded desire to live the primitive life where material requisites are purely ornamental creeps by. Castaway on the Moon puts emphasis on introspection and cherish of possessed riches.
The movie has bagged four awards, including the Black Dragon Audience Award at Udine Far East Film Festival, in 2010, for its creator. It has also been nominated three times for best narrative feature and best film.
Often in the movie, there’s a bird that flies by the sweetest moments. Its job is to stay in the background and reflect on the characters’ tone and tension. An aerially swift take off and every time a warm landing, the bird sings with a phenomenal tone. Hong-jip Kim names his bird after his creation- ‘music’.
A cry for help turned into a hello. As weeks go by, the characters develop a bizarre relationship. Ryeowon leads the story in the latter part. Lee’s film is funny, charming, and wonderful. If you are not one for slow-paced movies, staying away is your best bet. But if the movie wizard in you enjoys drama at a relaxed pace, Castaway On The Moon is an unearthed gem. Part of me wished the movie wouldn’t end, but to hell with that great direction; the credits had to roll. The music faded in the background, and I was looking at my reflection on the screen at a loss for words. After two playbacks, now that I’ve deconstructed the movie, would I get the same experience again? Who knows. Only a third watch can make me sure.