The First Lap
Gateway | Dragons & Tigers
Su-hyeon, an aspiring artist resigned to teaching, and Ji-young, who works in the news business, have been living together for six years. Their docile existence is interrupted when Ji-young reveals her period is late. This unexpected occurrence looms over Kim Daehwan’s The First Lap, the second in his "family trilogy," following the Busan-winning End of Winter. Kim’s film focuses on two family visits, the first to Ji-young’s well-off parents, who live in an Incheon high-rise. There, her mother expresses—very cruelly—shame that her daughter hasn’t yet married. The second sees the two trek across the country to the east coast port of Samcheok, where the meek Su-hyeon finally introduces his longtime girlfriend to his estranged working-class parents on his father’s 60th birthday.
But reaching a destination is a problem, both figuratively and literally. The film’s overarching metaphor relates to Su-hyeon and Ki-young’s placelessness and indecision, as we see them squatted amidst moving boxes, and is often expressed visually through the couple’s constant struggles with finding their way, as they drive and drive, camera in the back seat, a child’s toy on the dashboard. They’re forestalling maturity, but, at the same time, trying to avoid turning into their parents. In this subtle and emotional work, Kim uses minimal means, and a great attention to specificity, to tell a story with universal resonance.
Best New Director, Locarno 17