Park Hae-Il’s In-Mo is beating a man in the snow—apparently the man cheated with his wife. Movie director In-Mo is jobless, about to be wifeless, and certainly penniless, living in a small run-down room with his landlady banging on his doors, asking him to pay rent. In-Mo then intends to end his life, with a necktie readily tied around his neck, he’s about to hang himself when his mother gives him a call. She asks how he’s been doing and invites him to come over to her house—she’s cooking chicken porridge, his favorite dish.
In-Mo ends up going to his mother’s house, where he finds his good-for-nothing older brother, who hangs around the house all day, seemingly doing nothing but eats and farts. Later on his sister also enters the house, having just divorced her second husband, she has come to live in the house, tagging his foul-mouthed teenage daughter with her. So all of the sudden the single mother has all her broken children reunited, all living under the same roof, all quibbling non-stop. This group of adults represent the Boomerang Generation, people who boomerang back to live within their parents’ households after some time on their own.
The premise sounds like a comedy, the movie surely looks like a comedy, and the interactions between the characters can sometimes be quite funny, but the best are probably the moments bordering between comedic and dramatic, where you don’t really know whether to laugh or sympathize with the characters. Some of those are the best, but most of them also become the worst part of the movie. Sure, we’ve seen some typical Korean slapstick gags involving violence seen in a humorous way. Sure, we’re not strangers to Korean sex comedies, there are so many of them after all. Yet in Boomerang Family, there are two scenes involving rape (or ‘rape in progress’, as one of the characters call) that we are supposed to see as funny, and that is something unfathomable for me. Han-Mo, In-Mo’s older brother, sees a woman about to be raped in a car and excitedly approaches it, hoping to see the action up close. There is also one of him masturbating with a pair of panties over his face, supposedly his niece’s. Are those scenes supposed to be funny? Well, the audience did laugh.
An enjoyable part for me is seeing food as the gluing medium for the members of the family. Eating scenes are all over the movie and they even play an important role in the relationship between the characters, both in the beginning and end of the movie. A set of hot, steaming meal always accompanies the family when they’re agreeable or when they’re arguing, and it always makes the scenes livelier.
Yet probably the funniest and most enjoyable part of the movie is the bickering between the siblings. With a good chemistry between them, their shouts and insults and punches provide some of the best laughs. And with an actor like Park Hae Il and a veteran like Yoon Yeo Jeong, it’s quite easy to enjoy their performances. The conflicts, although with not-too-surprising devices and outcomes, are also quite pleasing enough to follow. The third act puts the whole family to a test and wraps the movie up nicely.
After watching the movie for a second time, it actually felt funnier. Well, at least the first 1/3 of it. The things that disturbed me still did, the fart jokes did get old, but overall it’s still a quite fun take at the dynamics of a dysfunctional family, with great chemistry between the characters.
On a side note, fans of indie band Bulnabang Star Sausage Club can rejoice because it’s their song playing during the end credits. Yay!
Boomerang Family was screened at the 2013 Korean Film Festival.