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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

Quick Reviews: 'Return To Seoul', '65' | French-Korean Explorations, Adam Driver Shoots Dinosaurs

Park Ji-min holding an umbrella, Adam Driver and Ariana Greenblatt in a cave
Return To Seoul (L), 65 (R)


Surely we'll be postponing our attempts to sell our Seouls because first we seemingly have to return to one. Writer-director Davy Chou's drama about self-discovery, Return To Seoul (Retour à Séoul in French, unknown title in Cambodia), has us going back to the city to retrace steps. Frédérique "Freddie" Benoît (Park Ji-min) is a French citizen spending a somewhat unplanned vacation in South Korea from where she was adopted as a child. Whilst there and with support from her new local friend Tena (Guka Han), Freddie ends up trying to contact her biological parents (Oh Kwang-rok as dad, Cho-woo Choi as mom) through the original adoption centre. Slowly but struggling with a language she doesn't speak, Freddie begins to figure out her origins and also her future.

Chou's starting point is an intriguing one as many of the film's early scenes allow interactions feel fluid and spontaneous, Park having to express a lot since dialogue is sparse unless she's talking French with Tena while Freddie's personality clashes in an interesting fashion with Koreans she encounters. The overall storytelling uses familiar beats from coming-of-age movies, mixing them with other familiar stuff from ''fish out of water'' stories.

Chou and Park discover some deep questions with Freddie's journey that make Return To Seoul a worthwhile trip to the cinema but the cutting rhythm by editor Dounia Sichov introduces obstacles along the way. Many scenes, especially after the 45-minute mark, simply go on for way too long which often leaves Park in her first film role repeating the same mannerisms and emotional notes. Then when scenes themselves begin to repeat revelations and downfalls, it can really suck the air out of the room. Therefore a return to the story can be a bit tiresome and it's perhaps better to just go once and enjoy the few happier memories.

Smileys: Premise, directing

Frowneys: Editing


Park Ji-min holding an umbrella and looking at a map


Dinosaurs? Check. Adam Driver blasting them to death? Check. Some futuristic vibes? Check. Get us in already. From the writing and directing duo Scott Beck and Bryan Woods comes the sci-fi survival film 65 where we're moving forward by going back in time. First we end up on a planet called Somaris where we meet Driver's character Mills, a pilot, as he sets out to travel through space on an expedition to provide for his wife Alya (Nika King) and daughter Nevine (Chloe Coleman). However, Mills and his spaceship crash-land on Earth, specifically 65 million years ago. Only one passenger survives, a young girl named Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), and two of them must survive Mother Nature and dinosaur attacks while trying to get back to Somaris on an escape shuttle.

At least sometimes Beck, Woods and other creatives seemed to have figured out what they're making here, turning in a fast and moderately entertaining thrill ride that has removed enough of the unnecessary fat. Most of that lies in the duo's script as characters and their actions are often laughably generic—Nevine's awkward sick coughing being an early offender, for example—and obstacles they face you can see coming from miles away, though they are decently realised thanks to competent VFX, booming soundscapes and Kevin Ishioka's production design.

But even as committed as Driver and Greenblatt are to deliver fun schlock, they still have to deal with weak dialogue, not because their characters don't speak the same language but because they communicate with movie logic rather than like two humans would in a life-or-death situation. Movie logic can be used as an enhancement here and there but it doesn't create believable characters or complex feelings. Maybe in another 65 million years it will.

Smileys: Pacing

Frowneys: Screenplay, dialogue


Adam Driver and Ariana Greenblatt inside a cave system
Sony Pictures

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