CASTAWAY ON THE MOON (Kimssi pyoryugi) (2009) – ‘Castaway’ is an unusual comedy from writer/director Hae-jun Lee about a man, Kim Seong-Geun (Jae-yeong Jeong), who has just lost his girlfriend, his meaningless job, and is in financial ruin. He figured the best way to resolve his miserable problems was to commit suicide. So he positioned himself on the edge of a bridge overlooking the Han River in Seoul–and jumped in. Fortunate for him, he did not die. Instead, he wakes up on a tiny island in the middle of the Han. He just decided he wasn’t good at killing himself anyway, which was to be expected. He was such a failure at everything else anyway.
Despite being deserted on an island in the middle of a busy city, he does what he can to try and get off the island. His cell phone barely gets reception; he can’t swim; he can’t kill himself–not from a lack of trying–but still, he finds himself stranded. So like anyone who finds themselves stranded on a deserted island, he decided to make the best of his time there after spending a lot of his time frantically trying to get off the island. He begins salvaging the items that wash up on the shore of the island by making a home in an abandoned paddle boat in the shape of a swan.
He was a little awkward at first, bumbling along eating anything that he found: flowers, mushrooms, pigeons, stuff he found along the riverbank. It was a surprise that those things didn’t kill him, but it was a packet of black bean noodle seasoning spurred his creativity–he aimed to make noodles so that he could use the seasoning packet on them. How was he supposed to get noodles? Well, he had to grow the wheat to be able to make noodles.
There is something to being stranded and having to depend on your ingenuity to get through the most difficult periods of life. Since Kim did not have the seeds he needed to grow wheat, he was struck with genius as he gnawed on the leg of a pigeon–birds eat flowers, flowers have seeds, and since pigeons cannot digest the seeds, he knew just where he needed to find, um…the seeds. So he went about it, growing wheat. At the same time, while all of this was going on; he was being watched.
Castaway has a second story that was playing out along with Kim’s survival adventures. Ryeowon Jung plays an introvert who depends on her mother to assist her with daily living because she never left her room. There was not an explanation as to why she never left her room–the only implication that something physically happened to her due to the scar on her face. She spends her day on the internet. She existed in a darkened room and busied herself with her many online profiles. In the evenings, she would look at the moon through a long lens camera, and when it was time to sleep, she would do so–wrapped in bubble wrap.
One day though her long lens, she spotted the lone Islander and monitored his progress on the island. She took sympathy in his plight. She was happy when he was successful at growing his wheat but saddened by the loss of his crops. Eventually, they began communicating via messages in a bottle and somewhere during their off-beat communication process they fall in love. At times, Castaway appears to be overly dramatic; there are a few long silent shots of each character pondering or calculating their next move–but it isn’t. It’s a subtle comedy, and these entrancing scenes allow for you to sympathize with each character.
Castaway on the Moon is an emotionally delicate tale that does not bore you like in those high-strung romantic films. Director Lee was able to catch two very different stories and bound them seamlessly. Castaway is like an ongoing love letter that doesn’t overwhelm you until the very end–just when all of the emotional builds up and longing accumulates, then eventually erupt into a unique viewing experience. In the end, you may find yourself all teary-eyed and just may shed a tear or two.