Lee Joon-ik’s new film focuses on upsides of harsh reality of youth

By Yoon Min-sik
  • Published : Jun 4, 2018 - 15:26
  • Updated : Jun 4, 2018 - 15:26

Today’s young generation faces issues that make it difficult for them to see themselves as being in the prime of their lives. But Lee Joon-ik, the director of “Sunset in My Hometown,” which caps off his “youth trilogy” movies, advises youngsters to go with the flow and maintain a positive attitude.

“There seems to be efforts to ponder the joys and sorrows of youth. Is it something to be concerned about? I think the wisest thing to do to overcome (the hardships in youth) is to accept it as it is, and just enjoy it,” he said during a press conference for the upcoming film. “By living your everyday life with a positive attitude, it will be possible to see the beauty of youth.”

From left: Park Jung-min, Kim Go-eun and Lee Joon-ik pose during a press conference for “Sunset in My Hometown” in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

The film follows the life of an unsuccessful rapper Hak-soo -- played by Park Jung-min -- who returns to his hometown of Byeonsan, and to his childhood friend Sun-mi -- played by Kim Go-eun.

As Lee pointed out, the reality of the protagonists is no picnic. But Lee said their sincerity toward life would help bring out the positive aspects of their experiences.

Park is noted for his character acting -- he has played a broad range of characters, including an independence fighter and a musical savant -- but it required cramming sessions with rapper Yankie to transform himself into a rapper, albeit a unsuccessful one.

Kim Go-eun (center) speaks while Park Jung-min (right) and Lee Joon-ik listen during a press conference for “Sunset in My Hometown” in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

“I had to rap (in the movie) in front of some of the best rappers in Korea. ... The director asked the rappers over a meal about my skills, and Dok2 said it was ‘good enough for the second round of (the rap competition TV show) ‘Show Me the Money.’ I was so embarrassed,” said Park.

It took Park a half-drunken rap session at the dinner party for the cast of “Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet” to persuade Lee that he was the man for the job. The director -- clearly not an avid fan of hip-hop -- asked Park if he could rap as well as BewhY. When he said no, as BewhY was a winner of “Show Me the Money,” Lee said, “But you can do it as well as Dok2, right?”

Dok2 was one of the judges of the show, and incidentally has a role in the film.

Outside of rapping, Park said that Hak-soo’s personality is closer to his actual self than any other character he has played.

If Park had to up his mic-checking skills, Kim had to size up on the weighing scale -- 8 kilograms to be exact.

“Monitoring myself, I even thought ‘is this really necessary?’ But it was fine,” said Kim. “It wasn’t that I wanted to get ugly, but Sun-mi just wasn’t a skinny type. I felt that there was a charm that could be had from being a little plump.”

“She is very attractive, in that she talks in a way that makes other person think,” Kim added.

The other two flicks in the youth trilogy, “Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet” and “Anarchist from Colony,” talked about people in the past. This one talks about people living in the present.

“I wanted to depict the ‘now’ of the youth trilogy. I wanted to show that a good ending is inevitable once you persistently come face to face with sincere moments,” Lee said.

“Sunset in My Hometown” hits local theaters on July 4.

By Yoon Min-sik