Review | In Our Day | 2024

Ki Joobong in Hong Sangsoo's "In Our Day." Courtesy of Cinema Guild.

The rate at which Hong Sang-soo continues to crank out films, often one-two per year, is impressive enough; that they continue to be such incisive observations about life is something of a minor miracle. 

Of course, Hong's prolific output is facilitated by his low-budget, shot-on-the-fly, mostly improvised process, and his latest film, In Our Day, doubles down on that DIY aesthetic. It almost feels as though someone is filming random interactions with an iPhone, capturing small moments of humanity that build up to something quietly shattering. That's what really makes Hong so unique - his more recent output almost feels like something anyone could make in their backyard, barely cobbled together trifles filled with meandering observations and unassuming situations. But these are anything but amateur endeavors, and the deceptively unassuming structure of In Our Day ultimately makes its emotional wallop all the more unexpected.

The film follows an actress (Kim Min-hee) who has returned from abroad and is living with a friend who also dreams of becoming an actress, and her cat, who lives life as she pleases. We also have our typical Hong avatar in the form of Ul-ju (Ki Ju-bong) and aging poet whose newfound popularity amongst young people has given him a new audience, and the questions of young students sent to interview him force the artist to reflect on his life and career.

In Our Day may not be as formally experimental as other recent Hong films like The Novelist's Film or in water, but it finds Hong in an almost autumnal, self-reflective mode. Hong's films have always been incredibly introspective, often reacting to or reflecting on the current state of his life with disarming candor. "Maintaining a clear vision might be the hardest thing in the world" laments Ul-ju, and therein lies the heart of In Our Day. You can feel Hong grappling with what art is, it's purpose in the world, and his relationship to it. How does one continue to stay fresh and be true to one's self in a world that is trying to fit you in an easily definable box?

The answer? "Be thankful for the small things and to the best of our ability, appreciate what's in front of us." The themes of In Our Day are simple, yet universal. The film may occasionally feel like an afterthought, yet sometimes the simplest things can be the most profound. This film is an attempt by an artist to not only grapple with his place in the world and how his voice fits into it, it's an attempt to accept things as they are. That's what makes it feel like such an essential late-period work. Hong is only 63 years old, yet In Our Day is his 30th feature film, and there's a sense that the filmmaker is taking stock of both his life and his work and wondering if it's all worth it.  Yet there's nothing fatalistic here - it's a wistful yet hopeful reverie of a filmmaker grappling with seeking truth in artifice, and through that lens the barebones style suddenly comes into sharp focus. It's another stunner from a master of the craft.

GRADE - ★★★½ (out of four)

IN OUR DAY | Directed by Hong Sang-soo | Stars Ki Ju-bong, Kim Min-hee, Song Sun-mi, Park Mi-so | Not Rated | In Korean w/English subtitles | Now playing at Film at Lincoln Center in NYC.


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