Among my favorites in this year’s showcase for the 2011 Cinemanila International Film Festival is the movie, “Daytime Drinking” by Director Noh Young-Seok.
For 4 years, Director Noh Young-Seok worked hard to get sponsorship for his script “Daytime Drinking”. But for some reason, he just couldn’t get it. So on 2008 when the noodle house of his mother was doing well, he borrowed money from her to create the movie that would later on receive acclaim from the film festival circuit — eventually garnering awards from the Jeonju International Film Festival, the Locarno International Film Festival, and the Vessoul International Asian Film Festival.
Upon watching “Daytime Drinking”, it’s easy to see why it initially was passed over by sponsors. After all, this is a movie about the Korean drinking culture. The story even begins on a drinking night of a group of friends. Hyeok-Jin (played by Song Sam-Dong) is broken-hearted after finally being released from military duty because of his love problems. His friends, led by Kisang (played by Yook Sang-Yeob) try to cheer him up by inviting him to a trip to Jeong-seon in the Gangwon-do province. Swayed by promises of sun, barbecue, and the chance to forget his heartbreak, Hyeok-Jin goes to Gangwon-do the next day. But to his dismay, he discovers that his friends have been too drunk to go there as well. Alone, he ends up on a series of misadventures, encountering the strangest people, and forming the unlikeliest bonds with them through alcohol. Among them are a mysterious couple in the vacation house who end up stealing his stuff and leaving him freezing in the side of the road, an eccentric ajummah who gets even with him after he dismisses her love for poetry and music, and a lecherous truck driver who gropes him while sleeping.
At first glance, it’s easy to think that this movie is a criticism or even a satire of the Korean drinking culture. After all, the lead character, Hyeok-Jin ends up going through all these crazy travails because of his inability to pass up on a drink (which is practically impossible in Korea especially if an elder is offering you). But as Director Noh explained, this does not make fun of Korean drinking – it has fun with Korean drinking. The director himself who wrote,shot, scored, and produced this film admits that he loves to drink. He wanted to show the relationship formed between two people when alcohol is in the middle.
With this, the movie could have easily ended up as mere fluff or just a barrel of laughs. But what Director Noh managed to do is to create a story of Don Quixote-proportions. It makes you empathize with Hyeok-Jin but at the same time, you can’t help but be interested in what stupid thing will happen to him next. All the actors in the film played their roles well, but Song Sam-Dong really shines as the innocent Hyeok-Jin. He gives this doe-eyed charm to his character that is always believable and consistent throughout the whole film. Because of the way he portrayed the lead, you never feel that Hyeok-Jin is just plain stupid. You think that he is just like an innocent child who is a fish out of water — lost in a world where he doesn’t understand the rules much less its people.
Coupled with a eclectic mix of camera technique, wise selection and use of locations, plus a deadpan comical style, this movie will intoxicate you with laughter until the very end. Watching it feels like drinking alcohol, you can’t help but feel light and good even after the last shot.
Thanks to Inclusionism for the video.