Written by: Bradley Rust Gray & So Yong Kim
Starring: Taegu Andy Kang, Bokja Kim, Jiseon Kim, Mike Park, Virginia Wu
Transitioning to a new place for any youngster comes with its bumps on the road, which can only be exponentially more complicated when the change occurs in a different country with citizens speaking a different language. It makes the initial friendships all the more important, especially those who come with some relatability to home. This sets up but does not define In Between Days as it has more to say about the teenage experience and does so with plenty of heart.
After being abandoned by her father, Aimie (Jiseon Kim) and her mother (Bokja Kim) move from South Korea to a snow-filled Canadian town to start anew. With her transitioning to life there, she strikes up a friendship with fellow teen Tran (Taegu Andy Kang). Without saying much, the two begin to develop feelings for each other.
Brief in its runtime but just as worthy with what it wants to portray, In Between Days takes an insular look at Aimie’s life as she tries to navigate her feelings about everything occurring. The sudden change of scenery and the feelings she develops take up most of it, which makes complete sense for a story centering on a teenage girl. A narrative following her mother’s feelings during all of this would show a much different story, but those larger issues can escape the mind of a teenager, and the tender way in which this narrative just lets Aimie process her feelings makes for such a wholesome viewing experience.
A major aspect of the film adding to the overall mood comes from the weather. While being no expert on the climate in South Korea, it would be far-fetched to believe they deal with the pummeling snow and cold conditions Aimie must now face in Canada. This cold not only makes the transition more difficult but the coolness of the weather makes for a melancholic piece. Scenes of Aimie trekking through the snow as she contemplates everything very much communicate the overall feel. This coldness also demonstrates the status of Aimie’s relationship with her mother, which could use a bit of warmth as well at times. However, the foundational relationship to this narrative remains the one the protagonist has with her peer, the one she begins to develop romantic feelings for.
The interplay between these two shows two young teenagers who do not know how to properly express themselves. Through their faces, it becomes evident there is care between them but the words that need to be said for it to be confirmed become frustrating to wait for. An intentional decision made by So Yong Kim along with her co-writer Bradley Rust Gray. The boiling frustration comes as part of what makes the teenage experience and it becomes easy for us to sit back and yearn this for Aimie but it remains her life. With all of the coldness around her, this relationship with Tran really becomes the only source of warmth Aimie can rely upon and it does not necessarily get shared in the most productive way.
Letting the story sit with Aimie as a character rather than having some larger message it wants to display demonstrates what makes So Yong Kim such an emotionally potent filmmaker. With this serving as her feature directorial debut, she has demonstrated how well she can handle the subtle and much more outward expressions of emotions. She carries a specific restraint in the way she navigates her stories, which makes the moments where something a bit more bombastic all the more impactful. With this smaller and more contained feature she makes it such a singular experience and she only continues to improve as a filmmaker with her work in crafting Lovesong truly her defining achievement with how she can set up these characters to express themselves in subtle ways. As a debut, she operates so well in crafting the mood of this piece, even if it can feel a bit slow at times.
The intentionality becomes the key and she proves she has skill right from the very beginning.
Emotionally moving and impactful, In Between Days shines a light on a strong filmmaking voice in So Yong Kim, as she crafts an equally lovely and cold narrative. Even with all of the struggles displayed in the feature, it never takes its focus from Aimie as a character. Her struggles become the most important aspect of this film and the patient way in which this narrative stays with her through this brutal cold makes for a truly lovely experience.