Ajoomma (2022)

Directed by He Shuming

A widow obsessed with Korean soap operas travels abroad for the first time in her life and finds more than she bargained for in Seoul.

Seattle International Film Festival 2023: Film #25

Felt very much like a slow-motion screwball comedy aiming for broad mainstream appeal, with little novel to offer compared to other middling comedy dramas cluttering up my Netflix homescreen. Contrary to the others in the cinema with me, the comedy wasn't exactly my kind of tea, which makes it harder to believe that the plot has some deeper resonance in Singapore and Korea itself. The tone of the car chase in the middle of the film reminded me of the equally ill-judged chase in Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels (1941). Perhaps it would have been more artistically successful if, say, the in-universe Koren TV soap opera blended further into the film? I found the conclusion distinctly strange: neither uplifiting nor sad enough to be tear-jerking. As in Arjoomma is back alone in her apartment (instead of with Jung Su in Korea), and she has just learnt that her son has been keeping a relationship secret from her for the past three years, potentially because be believed she would disapprove of his sexual orientation. None of this is a problem in the abstract, of course, but for this to be communicated by a film as a fundamentally happy ending is a little strange for film marketed as a 'comedy drama', and moreover didn't match the mostly light-hearted tone of the preceding ninety minutes.