“Memories of a Dead End” (막다른 골목의 추억) – 2018 Busan Film Review

The Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto’s novels are deceptively simple, deeply introspective views into characters whose lives can change course from a single twist or turn, no matter how big or small. Even when these inner journeys are surveyed from a third-party perspective, Yoshimoto manages to transfer the emotion from her protagonists directly to the reader.

In the latest cinematic adaptation of Yoshimoto’s work, Korean director Choi Hyun-young captures the spirit of the author’s literary style.  “Memories of a Dead End” stars Choi Soo-young (최수영) as Yumi, a Korean woman caught in a long-distance relationship with her Korean beau who is working in Nagoya.  Uncertain of the couple’s future, Yumi travels to Japan to seek answers, but instead learns that her boyfriend is engaged to a Japanese woman.

That revelation is the lone twist, and from that point onward Yumi must figure out how to reconcile with what has transpired.  Unable to head back to Korea right away, she seeks refuge in the type of guesthouse where visitors hailing from all parts of the world transform into long-term visitors-turned-friends.  At the center of this is Nishiyama (Shunsuke Tanaka), one of the guesthouse employees who immediately senses that something is amiss with Yumi’s state of mind.

Time passes.  Yumi attempts to heal.  There are no further major conflicts.  Instead, the viewer is drawn into a quiet observation of a young woman’s own observations of the world around her.  Although Choi Soo-young is a veteran of the stage and small screen – she is more famously known as Sooyoung of the K-pop group Girls’ Generation – this is her first lead role in a film, and her thoughtful handling of the character of Yumi stops the work from becoming too trite; even the subtlest of her facial expressions does not even need to be accompanied by words.  Equally impressive is that the majority of her emotional scenes required a considerable amount of dialogue in Japanese, which is not the actress’s first language.  “Memories of a Dead End” may not change the world, but it’s a reminder to stop focusing on what has been lost and instead cherish what one has.

“Memories of a Dead End” made its world premiere at the 2018 Busan International Film Festival.  It screens on Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. at CGV Centum City.