Return to Seoul

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades


The original English title was “All the People I’ll Never Be,” but Sony Pictures Classics renamed Davy Chou’s film “Return to Seoul.” They planned to release it in South Korea.

In it, we meet Freddie (Ji-Min Park), a 25-year-old woman who was born in Korea, but adopted by a French couple. When a flight to Tokyo gets canceled, she takes a side trip to Seoul.

Although Freddie insists that she’s not in Korea to find her parents, at the urging of her new acquaintance Tena (Guka Han), she calls on the Hammond Adoption Center, where she learns the agency can send telegrams to her parents requesting a meeting.

When her father responds, Freddie travels to visit him, with Tena serving as their translator. He wants to embrace the relationship, but she ghosts him. Later, her mother refuses contact.

The film continues as a tangle of her relationships, or lack thereof, with her biological parents. It’s a journey of self-discovery … but what is learned?

Total Film observes, “Ji-min’s electric lead energizes a nimble investigation into identity.” That’s impressive, considering this is her first film role.

Director Davey Chou met Ji-Min Park through a personal introduction and decided to cast her in the lead because she “shared the essence of Freddie’s free-spiritedness.”

As one moviegoer summarized it: “Park captures the spectrum of conflicting emotions that Freddie is dealing with as she navigates the questions of her birth and where she will land in the divide between her Korean ancestry and her French upbringing.”

Chou says he got the idea for the film from a friend, a French woman in her 20s who was also adopted from South Korean biological parents. Art imitating life.

“Return to Seoul” explores “the lingering impacts of abandonment …”

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