A Wild Roomer (Goein) screened at the London Korean Film Festival 2023
Carpenter Gi-hong (Park Gi-hong) often sleeps where he is working, but also rents a room in the modernist suburban home of Jung-hwan (Ahn Ju-min) and his wife Hyun-jung (Kim Jeon-gil), with whom he also spends quite a lot of time hanging out.
Indeed Lee Jeong-hong’s feature debut is something of a hangout film, with a low-key slacker sensibility. There is the hint of a mystery, as Gi-hong sets about determining (with not always welcome help from the bored Jung-hwan) who damaged the roof of his work van – but for the most part this is more concerned with mood and vibe than anything like a conventional or even eventful narrative. The theme here, as we are taken from different houses in relative states of (dis)repair, is the provisional nature of home and domestic life.
While the film’s English title A Wild Roomer is lifted from a silent comic short film made in 1927 by Charles Bowers and Harold Muller, the Korean title Goein (or ‘Monster’) raises a challenge to viewers to take their time working out its precise meaning and reference. They will have plenty of time – for the pace here is meandering, even (at two-hours plus) overstretched. Yet from this casual approach to storytelling, with its intense focus on characters not doing very much, there emerges real observational nuance and charm.
strap: Lee Jeong-hong’s hangout feature debut offers a slacker’s guide to the provisional nature of home and domestic life
© Anton Bitel