Director: Cho Sun-Ho
Cast: Kim Myung-Min, Byun Yo-Han, Yoo Jae-Myung
Runtime: 1 hr 30 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 10 August 2017
Synopsis: Returning from a long trip abroad, Jun-young, a skilled doctor, comes across a scene of a car accident on the way to meet his daughter. It turns out that the dead girl hit by a taxi is none other than his beloved daughter, Eun-jung. Then suddenly, everything repeats like déjà vu, Eun-jung getting hit by the taxi and Min-chul, the paramedic, checking on the other victims in the taxi, including his own wife. Lost in repetition, Jun-young notices that he is not the only one trying to save a loved on in the endless time loop. Jun-young and Min-chul decide to work together to redesign the gruesome future.
‘A Day’ spins a ‘Groundhog Day’ mystery around world-renowned doctor Jun-young (Kim Myung-min), who en route to meet his beloved teenage daughter Eun-jung (Jo Eun-Hyung), comes across the scene of a car accident and discovers to his horror that the pedestrian who has died on the spot is none other than Eun-jung herself. Then, all of a sudden, Jun-young finds himself back on the plane as it prepares to land in Seoul, with the events of that very day repeating like clockwork – an air stewardess who asks for his autograph on the cover of Newsweek; a boy who chokes on his sweet at the arrival terminal; the counter lady at the toll gate who accidentally drops his change while handing some coins back to him; and last but not least, the accident itself where an orange-coloured taxi has crashed into a pile of concrete slabs by the side of the road after hitting Eun-jung. Neither Jun-young nor the film, for that matter, is concerned about the number of times history repeats itself; rather, what matters more to Jun-young is how he can save his daughter and escape from the time loop.
The answer to both lies intertwined with ambulance driver Min-chul (Byun Yo-Han), who happens to be the first paramedic to arrive at the scene. It is Min-chul who first notices that he is not alone in experiencing the time loop; and like Jun-young, the stakes are personal – his wife Mi-kyung (Shin Hye-Sun) is in the back of the cab involved in the accident. Soon enough, Jun-young and Min-chul decide to work together to avert that fateful moment where they lose both their loved ones; whereas Jun-young tries desperately to stop her daughter from crossing the road at the stroke of noon, Min-chul attempts to call his wife whom he just had a quarrel with the night before to stop her from getting into the cab. Over the course of repetition after repetition, we also get to learn more about their respective backstories. As it turns out, Jun-young has been spending the past three years doing volunteer work overseas, inadvertently neglecting Eun-young and therefore straining relations between them. On the other hand, Min-chul has resisted his wife’s desire for them to have a child, insisting that they do not have enough money or resources to do so, which was the subject of their argument and why she refuses to pick up his calls that very morning.
Although it may seem as if the time loop were for Jun-young and Min-chul to make up with their loved ones, there is much more that director Jo Sun-ho and his co-writer Lee Sang-hak have up their sleeves. Not to worry, we’re not about to reveal any spoilers here; suffices to say that Jun-young and Min-chul’s sins go much further back and are much more severe than that which we have described, and unravelling the tragedy of their present circumstances has something to do with how they atone for the sins of their past. Having not one but two protagonists here allows the film to have each assume the polarities of forgiveness and revenge, and present a compelling lesson on breaking the literal and figurative cycle of suffering, grief and misery at the heart of the film. It also allows for Kim and Byun to evolve into their respective contrasts, and both actors keep their performances sincere and authentic so you’ll feel their desperation, helplessness and eventual resolve.
Unfolding over a relatively brief 90 minutes, Jo maintains a brisk pacing and a tense atmosphere throughout the film, keeping his characters and us on tenterhooks as we figure out why and how they are trapped in the time-travel puzzle. Similarities to Tom Cruise’s recent sci-fi actioner ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ are inevitable, but despite the familiar premise, ‘A Day’ is still a taut thriller that packs a satisfying mystery at its core. Indeed, what makes it even more unique is how it uses the time-loop concept to examine the Buddhist concept of karma and the cycle of rebirth, which at least in our knowledge, has never yet been explored in this manner. And so, even though it may not boast big-name stars as many of the other Korean movies in our cinemas, ‘A Day’ is probably one of the better ones we’ve seen this year, its message of compassion and penance one which will stay with you long after the credits roll.
(The premise may be familiar, but this exploration of karma and the cycle of rebirth using the time-loop concept is intriguing, exciting and heartfelt)
Review by Gabriel Chong