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(Check our Chris Reed’s movie review of In Our Dayin theaters now. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)

South Korean cineaste Hong Sang-soo (The Woman Who Ran) makes movies with impressive frequency, sometimes as many as four in one year. In Our Day, his latest feature, marks his 30th outing in the director’s chair. Fans of Hong’s work will recognize his signature long takes and reframing zooms, along with his penchant for what sounds like unscripted, improvised dialogue. But though much is familiar inside this gentle chamber piece, it still contains a well of meaningful truths.

Part of the charm of a Hong film is the deceptive simplicity within and the way he lulls you into a false sense of reduced expectations. There’s a quiet domesticity throughout most of his narratives, interrupted occasionally by crises that frequently turn out to be not so urgent. Though they are the opposite of the enticing snacks to be found among Hollywood blockbusters, the movies still function as a kind of cinematic comfort food, where we go to meet the nearly identical stock characters, over and over.

That sense of repetition—though with ever-changing grace notes—is reinforced through the recurrent use of the same actors. In Our Day brings back longtime confederates Kim Min-hee, Song Seon-mi, and Gi Ju-bong, along with more recent collaborators Kim Seung-yun and Ha Seong-guk. It is, as always, very much a homecoming.

Kim Min-hee plays Sangwon, a former actress just back from abroad, currently living with her friend Jungsoo (Song). They while away they time playing with Jungsoo’s friendly cat, Us, Sangwon drinking coffee and Jungsoo a spot (or two) of wine. All is good until, at one point—after the arrival of a third woman, Jisoo—the cat disappears.

Meanwhile, in a seemingly unrelated scene, an aging poet, Hong Uiju (Gi), finds himself the subject of a film project being made by student Kijoo (Kim Seung-yun). Their tête-à-tête is similarly interrupted by the arrival of a new person, wannabe actor Jaewon (Ha), who has come for life advice from the great man. Unfortunately, though Hong has words of wisdom to offer, what he really wants to do is drink and smoke, both activities now forbidden to him by doctors.

In Our Day builds parallels (some obvious, others more elliptical) between each location’s actions and conversations, linking them via thematic echoes that reverberate through words and deeds. Among the topics on the table are such weighty subjects as the meaning of life and love, along with the value of small pleasures. The stakes, as they always do in Hong’s movies, appear low, but then, when we think more about them, grow exponentially in impact. Lean into the magic of the banal as it uncovers its often-profound mysteries.

– Christopher Llewellyn Reed (@ChrisReedFilm)

In Our Day movie; Hong Sang-soo

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Christopher Llewellyn Reed is a film critic, filmmaker, and educator. A member of both the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, he is: lead film critic at Hammer to Nail; editor at Film Festival Today; formerly the host of the award-winning Reel Talk with Christopher Llewellyn Reed, from Dragon Digital Media; and the author of Film Editing: Theory and Practice. In addition, he is one of the founders and former cohosts of The Fog of Truth, a podcast devoted to documentary cinema.

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