The Dublin International Comedy Film Festival is taking pride in showcasing movies true to the daring nature of comedy itself. An example of this is their international selection, including the South Korean film, Pretty Man (My Bittersweet Family), by Kim Jung-Wook
Self-described by the film marketers, the comedy follows Ki-Seong, “a 40-year-old head of the family who has an accidental father, a rejuvenated daughter and an ex-wife who remarries a classmate.” Laughable word usage like “rejuvenated daughter” will surely give you a glimpse into the sort of subtitles this movie provides.
The film itself is very unique in style. It boasts plenty of comedy, thanks to self-deprecating foibles similar to the likes of Nacho Libre. Yet, takes rendered in slow-motion where the actors just move slower in real-time, as well as a soundtrack that amplifies the levity of every situation, leads the film to radiate an air of sadness in the second half akin to the reality of middle-aged adulthood following divorce. Events often fall out of control, bills pile up, and dating is not anything like it used to be, especially if you have a weak stomach at the mention of sex like our protagonist.
Following in the footsteps of High Flying Bird and Tangerine, Pretty Man is entirely shot on an iPhone. The shooting style mostly doesn’t detract from the story Kim Jung-Wook sets out to tell. In fact, the iPhone was probably deployed to add to the element of showcasing the lower-middle class lifestyle of urban South Korea, if not simply because of budgeting constraints.
Generally speaking, the only problem with an iPhone’s camera lies in its capacity for capturing close-up shots. This has to do with something referred to as “focal length,” a measurement which can be so low that it creates a fish-eye effect or so high resulting in the opposite. Here, close-ups often feel much too close and unnaturally distracting compared with other features for the big screen. There are also some smaller problems with using an iPhone for filming, but they aren’t as distracting – small scenes that can’t quite capture enough light during night shots or clear attempts at stabilizing camera movement are some of the more subtler ones.
Above all, Pretty Man (My Bittersweet Family) stays funny and engaging throughout and even has some more emotional scenes that carry it home to a satisfying ending. It may not be for all, but it’s undoubtedly one for the books and deserving of its nomination for Best International Feature at the Dublin International Comedy Film Festival.