Many of Hong Sang-soo’s films are reminiscent of Samuel Beckett’s en attendant Godot. Blatantly laying out complex and almost pedantic dialogues, the slow transition of sequences and fast zooms, the films' artistic qualities have won a number of critics' hearts at the acclaimed international film festivals — the director has had a good run so far, by winning The Golden Leopard of Locarno Film Festival's 68th edition in 2015 (Right Now, Wrong Then), along with Best Actor in Leading Role and Best Director at the 64th San Sebastian Film Festival (Yourself and Yours) in 2016. Earlier this year, On the Beach at Night Alone was invited at Berlin Film Fest, where it achieved Best Actress in Leading Role for Kim Min-hee’s performance.
The subject which the film mainly deals with is 'love.' What is particularly interesting in this regard is that the film has the power to make the subject a rather tempting pursuit, while it does a great job in drawing out love’s misery, that is. Split into mainly two parts, the film's background in the first part is the aftermath of Young-hee’s (played by Kim Min-hee) break up with Sang-won (played by Moon Sung-keun). Heartbroken Young-hee, who still manages to believe in true love, finds herself in Hamburg re-accounting her love story with a friend, Ji-young (played by Seo Young-hwa). The second half of the movie takes place in Young-hee’s hometown of Gangneung. Now, she’s changed, at least on the surface, and doesn't hesitate to express her anger, which is ultimately directed towards herself; Having lost trust in men, the mix of anger and alcohol reveals Young-hee’s sentiments as she shouts that their stupidity is undeserving of true love. Ironically, although Young-hee expresses her hatred towards the idea of love, it is obvious that her affection for Sang-won seems still deeply rooted within her. Drowning in her own pain, Young-hee sings a depressing song to herself in front of a coffee shop, while the scene becomes a secret, disheartening serenade itself.
In the meanwhile, the cinematography delicately captures Young-hee’s inner emotions and her silent break down. While Kim's flawless performance completes such artistry, what is garnering most of the media attention at this point seems to be the obvious parallels between the life of the characters and that of the director and actress, and whether their dramatic affair is in any way related to the storyline. Yet, after viewing the film, what naturally becomes clear is that the brilliance that the film itself presents should be what remains in the spotlight — as it so deserves to be.