Shin Su-won’s “Passerby #3” claimed the Best Asian-Middle Eastern Film Award at the 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival in 2010. This fantastical/musical drama is packed with laughs in a touching story of a dream-chasing mother and her son.
Park Hyun-young (as Kim Ji-wan) is our mother in crisis. Having quite her teaching job to pursue a career in filmmaking, she now finds herself battling the harsh and unforgiving reality of breaking into the industry. Her family is feeling the strain of her efforts and her son (the subtly comical Baek So-myeong as Si-yeong) has become ambivalent towards her chances of success. In one of the early scenes, Si-yeong and Ji-wan are sitting on the couch as we are whisked away into a hilarious musical trans lead by Si-yeong on the guitar.
This is one of the first indicators of the film's eclectic tone. "Passerby #3" continues to dabble in the fantasy realm without fully submerging itself. There is a reoccurring visual motif, for example, of ants that continue to haunt Ji-wan as she struggles to make good on her dreams. Early in the film Si-yeong asks her mother how to handle the ant problem they have at their apartment, with scotch tape emerging as the best solution. Because Ji-wan has neglected her role as mother/house keeper, the ants she hallucinates are the manifestation of her sense of failure in these roles.
The fantasy elements embedded in “Passerby #3” are not alone. In fact, “Passerby #3” is splattered with a combination of generic flavours that might create a little dissonance in terms of the expectations you might have going into the film. I found that I had to continually examine or realign my thoughts on a scene to place it in the bigger picture. That being said, all the elements in contention here were never over-blown, and they all mesh well within Shin Su-won’s first major film.
-Christopher J. Wheeler
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