What does it mean for someone to live? To lead a life that is beyond mere survival, to bring meaning to a moment of fleeting existence on Earth?
Yu Eun-jeong explores the existential question in her first feature film, the cleverly-directed and poignant “Ghost Walk,” through the eyes of someone who is no longer among the living.
“Ghost Walk” (Movement)
The film follows Hye-jeong (Han Hae-in), a factory worker whose provincial life is devoid of any fun, challenges, or emotional stimulation, shutting herself down to even dating. She finds herself approached by a little girl asking for help (Gam So-hyun), who mysteriously disappears when she looks back but keeps reappearing near her doorstep.
One day, Hye-jeong wakes up to find that she has become a ghost after a murder case she does not recall. Confused, Hye-jeong finds herself tracing her steps backward as her clock goes backward day-by-day, and encounters the little girl Soo-yang and another young woman Hyo-yeon (Jeon So-ni), who respectively face difficulties at home and with finances.
Although presented as a horror-mystery film, “Ghost Walk” is really a drama about the meaning of life. It dresses the protagonist in bland clothes that make her blend into the gloomy streets, depicting a lost soul left without a clear purpose in life in the heartless city.
Hye-jeong copes with her life, rejecting her co-worker’s gentle proposal to start dating with the excuse that she “has time for nothing else besides work,” not knowing what she wants out of the life she leads. Ironically, it is only after she has been reduced to a mere spirit that she craves meaning and purpose to life, remorseful of the choices she made and paths she had not taken.
“Ghost Walk” (Movement)
The predominantly female cast works like magic under Yu’s direction, both as individuals and with each other. Han’s performance conveys an emotional struggle along with ensuing pain and sense of loss, while child actor Gam exceeds expectations to provide a believable chemistry and story arc that serves as an emotional center for the film.
Jeon, who was the brightest spot in the underwhelming action flick “Jo Pil-ho: The Dawning Rage,” once again brings ample energy and life to her character.
The movie’s message resonates within the viewers, particularly the youngsters, because it is an issue that ails many of the generation. While progress has led to technological advances and apparent abundance, more young people feel empty within the hectic and saturated lives they lead. Overwhelmed by challenges that befall them, they are left to be content with maintaining the status quo, with no aspiration for anything beyond.
As a member of that generation, 33-year-old Yu understands their struggles and asks: What is the difference between living and being alive? Is there such thing as a life that is expendable?
By telling a story of a woman who can never go back to how she was before, the movie brings out these issues and challenges the viewers to ponder them, all told through a beautiful relationship between a child and a woman who find purpose in the odd limbo that she is left in.
It is a story of a ghost who travels back in time, yet is firmly grounded in reality. The strong drama, quality acting and clever directing makes it a film worth checking out, and the audience will find themselves lost in thought well beyond the 90-minute runtime.
“Ghost Walk” opens in local theaters on Aug. 15.
By Yoon Min-sik (email@example.com)