*A 2007 (U.S.) Release*
There is no lack of good, original coming-of-age films that deal with the trials and tribulations of adolescence. What makes the said personal/thematic impulses in writer-director So Yong Kims In Between Days somewhat distinctive, however, is that its young female protagonist deals with them while also attempting to come to terms with a foreign land and a new cultural environment. But, for better or for worse, Kims minimalist effort is less geared towards her process of assimilation and is much more interested in delicately mining her burgeoning crush on her best male friend and study partner.
Petite and melancholic, Aimie (Jiseon Kim) is a teenager whos recently emigrated from S. Korea to a wintry N. American city (the film was shot in Toronto, and despite the efforts made to generalize the setting, those familiar with the city will know that it takes place there as well). She feels disconnected from her working mother and has yet to find her place at school. It appears that her only friend in this isolated milieu is Tran (Taegu Andy Kang), a self-assured young lad, also an immigrant, who only has eyes for westernized Korean girls and prefers to treat Aimie as an innocent young thing -- though hes more than willing to experiment with her when the topic of sex comes up, possibly because she wouldnt know any better. (Kim has beautifully encapsulated the push-pull dynamics of the relationship between them.)
Primarily shot on DV, the film is tangentially based on the directors own childhood experience of moving from S. Korea to Los Angeles at the age of 12. Its Kims first feature but she had previously worked on a number of experimental short films and video installations (and the influence is apparent in her static compositions of the frozen landscape that are poetically set to Aimies monologues intended for her absent father).
Kim has mentioned Rebels of the Neon God (1992), Rosetta (1999) and Unknown Pleasures (2002) as the three films which inspired her the most. If the narrative's existential ennui belongs to the Tsai, then her spatial inquiries of lifes intangible moments certainly owe something to the Jia. As for the Dardennes, while Kims overall aesthetic isnt nearly as rigorous, her accentuation of the sound-design as her protagonist trudges through the snow does bring back a few memories. Subtle and unassuming, In Between Days is a most welcome addition to the ever-percolating coming-of-age scene.
*The film premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, where it won a Special Jury Prize. It went on to play at the likes of Berlin (FIPRESCI Prize), Toronto, and Buenos Aires (Best International Film/Actress).