2022, NR, 66 min. Directed by Hong Sang-soo. Starring Shin Seok-ho, Park Mi-so, Ki Joo-bong, Ye Ji-won, Kim Min-hee, Cho Yun-hee.

REVIEWED By Jenny Nulf, Fri., Feb. 4, 2022

Hong Sang-soo’s Introduction is a movie propelled by three hugs: whether between friends, lovers, or something in between. His triptych is injected with musings on generational gaps, their differentiating ideologies, and a layered approach to the meaning and weight of an “introduction.”

Ironically, though, Introduction would be a difficult initiation to Hong Sang-soo’s expansive filmography. It has the usual trappings of his oeuvre: dream logic, rants over drinks, and a depressing beach-set existential crisis. It begins with Young-ho (Shin), a young man who is visiting his father at his place of work. Leaving his girlfriend, Ju-won (Park), outside to watch boring internet videos, he ends up mostly conversing with the flirtatious older nurse (Ye) while his dad fawns over an old actor (Ki). This first chapter of the succinct film is light and airy, and sets up a sort of comedy of errors that tumbles into a fun ride.

The second part is equally cheeky, following girlfriend Ju-won as she settles in Berlin for her fashion studies. There, her mother introduces her to a painter (played by Hong’s muse and partner, Kim) who later acts as a bridge between the girlfriend and her mom when the mom is worried about Young-ho surprising her as he just so happens to be in town. This liaison between the generational divide of what parents want versus what their now-adult children want is an interesting challenge for Hong to take on. In the film’s third and final chapter, there’s a similar parallel with Young-ho’s mother (Cho) and her son, as she is blindsided by her son’s choice to upend his acting career because he finds the act of hugging another woman who is not his girlfriend to be insincere and off-putting.

Underneath the surface, there’s a tender story in Introduction about the passion of young love. The second chapter ends on a sweet hug between the two lovers as they gaze into each other’s eyes, completely enamored and consumed by one another. When the film reunites the two in the third part on a beach, their relationship is more strained. With age comes heartbreak, and here Hong writes one of the most brutal lines of his career after Young-ho asks Ju-won why she’s in South Korea when she’s supposed to be in Germany. “Trying to die, maybe. I’m sick. I’m not well. Things are hard for me.” It’s simple in its structure and brutally honest in its presentation, a matter-of-fact answer laced with melancholy. Introduction feels like a mediation on how time chips away at first impressions: What started as something beautiful and simple can become complicated, unattainable, and hard to hold on to.

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Introduction, Hong Sang-soo, Shin Seok-ho, Park Mi-so, Ki Joo-bong, Ye Ji-won, Kim Min-hee, Cho Yun-hee

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