It was an honour to catch the world premiere of the first Singapore-Korean co-produced movie Ajoomma at the 2022 Busan International Film Festival! Since it was the premiere, actor Jung Dong Hwan even specially re-arranged his schedule (he’s currently appearing in a theatrical play in Seoul) to make a quick trip to Busan for the screening. You can watch the video of the premiere at the bottom of this post, but first, a review!
Let me just begin by saying that I honestly enjoyed this movie from start to end. Perhaps it’s the way Hong Huifang’s character reminded me so much of my own mother, or the way they wrote a really typical makjang Korean drama into the script, but I found myself laughing even through the predictable scenes because they were so relatable.
[WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!]
The film begins with Hong Huifang’s character (henceforth referred to as Auntie) at a morning exercise class (zumba?), and you can see how happy she is dancing along to the K-pop song. We find out that she’s a huge K-drama fan and is excited about her upcoming trip to Korea with her son (played by Shane Pow). Then, as you might guess, her son can’t make it and wants to cancel the trip altogether. He has to go to the US instead for a job interview. But since the trip can’t be refunded even if it’s cancelled, she decides to head to Korea alone anyway.
The drama begins almost immediately because for some reason, she’s in the same tour group as some Chinese tourists. To make matters worse, her flight landed a lot later than the rest of the group so she’s already off to a stressful start from the moment she walked through the arrival gates. She’s greeted by her tour guide, Kwon-woo (played by Kang Hyung Suk) who races her to the tour bus in a luggage cart where the rest of the group have been waiting. And so the tour begins (after some bitching in Korean by Kwon-woo who pretends it’s some warm greetings when he “translates” to Mandarin for the tourists)!
We are treated to some beautiful scenes of Korea as the tour group travels from Incheon to Seoul, and takes touristy photos… Then we begin to learn a bit about Kwon-woo’s character and we see that he’s having some troubles at home. The tour bus makes a pit stop at his mother-in-law’s residence (where his wife and child are currently staying) and he tries to give her a gift for the lunar new year but is harshly rejected. While some tourists enjoy a cigarette break, Auntie decides to call her son, and somehow gets left behind by the tour bus. While running after the bus, she drops her mobile phone which is promptly run over by a car. Cue the panic and stress.
Unfortunately for Auntie, all her belongings are back on the bus, and she has nothing on her. She tries to get help from the security guard Jung Su (played by Jung Dong Hwan) but for any of you who have tried to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak the same language as you, you can imagine the frustration. For both parties. After a complete communication breakdown, Jung Su decides to drive her to her hotel after his shift has ended, but as luck would have it, there was a last-minute change in the hotel arrangements that she wasn’t aware of. So now she’s completely stranded without her belongings, has no way of contacting her tour guide, and is relying completely on a stranger’s kindness.
And this is where I’ll leave you all hanging because you should really watch the movie yourself and enjoy the ride. I promise you it’s a lot of fun and you’ll get to see some beautiful scenery from Korea! Also for my fellow Singaporeans (and Southeast Asians really), you can probably relate to Auntie’s character when she sees snow for the first time. That pure joy in her eyes… been there, looked like that.
Also, Yeo Jin Goo’s character in the movie was quite hilarious. He basically played a typical Korean drama character in a typical plot and every time he appeared on screen, you could hear the audience giggling. Actually you could hear the audience giggling at random moments during the movie and I was just thankful that the humour in the show was appreciated not only by the Singaporeans in the audience but also the Koreans. You know what to do, go watch the movie when it’s out in theatres!
Check out the Q&A session during the premiere at BIFF 2022 below.