Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

In Between Days

Illustration for article titled In Between Days

Jiseon Kim is a teenage immigrant, recently arrived to Canada with her divorced mother, and already bored with school in general and English class in particular. She prefers her afternoons idling with her friend Taegu Andy Kang at the arcade or at each other's apartments, where they're either comfortably silent together or chatting about nothing in Korean. But Kim and Kang have reached a tricky point in their friendship. She doesn't want to be his girlfriend, but she wants to preserve the possibility that she could be his girlfriend, so she gets jealous and hurt when he talks to other girls. Meanwhile, he mainly sits around and stews, resenting the way she rebuffs his half-advances.

Writer-director So Yong Kim attempts to record the queasy uncertainty of pre-adulthood and the narrow confusion of pre-citizenship, all while avoiding spelling anything out. In Between Days plays like a teen movie with all the narration removed, and with the smooth medium-to-long-shots—the ones that tell the audience that this story is happening to a fictional character—replaced by a succession of hand-held close-ups almost off-putting in their intimacy. This is by design. Since Kim has narrowed her world to herself and Kang, the filmmaker follows suit.

That said, there's such a thing as going in too tight. Because So Yong Kim is illustrating a situation that nearly every teenager has gone through, she may feel that the particulars don't need explanation. The problem comes with the missing pieces of In Between Days' puzzle, the ones that fit between the non-romance and show how it feels to be an immigrant, disconnected from old homes and new. She may intend for each half of Kim's situation to stand as a metaphor for the other, but she's still shutting her audience out more than she needs to. It's telling that her most memorable scenes are also the most recognizable, like when Kim smiles shyly at the memory of Kang trying to feel her up, or when he finally confronts her about whether she likes-likes him, and she responds, "If that's how I feel, what would you say?" Still, the director does finesse a brilliant final scene that shifts perspective to another Korean-Canadian girl, deceptively confident in ways that Kim isn't. And she deserves kudos for setting her movie during such a gray, dreary Toronto winter. It couldn't have been easy to find a climate that so resembles adolescence.