Our Midnight addresses the directionless and disheartened with its story of two strangers who find solace together in the sleeping streets of Seoul.
Director Lim Jung-eun’s debut Our Midnight (2020) follows two strangers who find mutual understanding in their fears of professional and personal failure. Struggling actor and recent dumpee, Jihoon (Lee Seung-hun) finds a job attempting to save suicidal members of society from the bridges of Seoul. On one of his nightly patrols, he meets Eunyoung (Park Seo-un), a woman who is battling with the aftermath of her colleague’s abuse. Despite the conditions of their meeting, it soon becomes clear that not one of them is the saviour, as they both are balancing on the precipice of self-destruction.
In the first twenty-five minutes of its runtime, we learn about the world Jihoon and Eunyoung are trying to navigate. Jihoon, adamant on becoming a successful actor, has lost sight of everything else that’s important, leading to a breakup with his long-term girlfriend. Eunyoung is stuck navigating her place of work timidly, untrusting of those around her after she reported the abuse she suffered at the hands of a fellow colleague. These scenes are crucial to the narrative, if not a little disjointed. They’re presented with a lack of certainty that is telling of a debuting director who hasn’t quite found their feet yet. However, Our Midnight’s strengths surely lie in the midnight scenes, where Jihoon and Eunyoung wonder aimlessly around Seoul in a way that emulates Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995). Jing-eun has a way of capturing humanity within her dialogue, allowing Jihoon and Eunyoung’s conversations to feel inclusive to you also, as if by speaking of their own fears they are addressing yours too.
Cinematographer Kim Jin-hyeong creates a hypnotic vision, with shadow-play being used repeatedly, at first to show our lost leads as projections of what haunts them. For Eunyoung, it is someone who is not brave enough to stand up to her abuser. The black and white feeds into the feeling of disconnect, every inch of empty space surrounding them feels like it stretches for miles. It carves out the landscape of Seoul’s towering architecture, swallowing Jihoon and Eunyoung up with ease and reflecting their own feelings of insignificance. This is why the frame bursting into colour in the final moments is so powerful, its rich colour palette showing these once adrift souls now draped over one another on the train. Jihoon, turned bitter by his lack of career opportunities, has found value in his day-to-day life and Eunyoung, with Jihoon’s support, has begun to heal from her trauma.
Our Midnight is a captivating study of the human condition at its best, and a little unsure of itself at its worst. What is clear, however, is Lim Jung-eun is one to watch.