The Day He Arrives

Hong Sang Soo’s The Day He Arrives measures the bonds of new / old friendships against the passage of time, as the entire sequence of events literally plays in reverse (with the audio still synced in forward motion). The full synopsis can be read as follows (via Cannes):

“Sungjoon heads to Seoul to meet a close friend who lives in the Bukchon area. When the friend doesn’t answer his calls, Sungjoon wanders around Bukchon and runs into an actress he used to know. The two talk for a while, but soon part. He makes his way down to Insadong and drinks makgeolli (rice wine) by himself. Some film students at another table ask him to join them—Sungjoon used to be a film director. He soon gets drunk and heads for his ex-girlfriend’s house.

Whether it’s the next day or some other day, but Sungjoon is still wandering around Bukchon. He runs into the actress again. They talk and soon part. He eventually meets his friend and they head to a bar called Novel with a female professor his friend knows. The owner of the bar has a striking resemblance to Sungjoon’s ex-girlfriend. He plays the piano for her.

Whether it’s the next day or some other day, Sungjoon goes to the Jeongdok Public Library with his friend and mentions that it was the first place he chased after a woman. Later, they have drinks with a former actor who had been doing business in Vietnam. The same female professor joins them and the four go to the bar called Novel. Sungjoon gets drunk and ends up kissing the owner of the pub…

Sungjoon may have spent a few days in Seoul with his friend, or it may still be his first day there. He may have learned something from the encounter with his ex-girlfriend, or may have to meet the woman that resembles her again, for the first time. As life presents itself in no more than today’s worth of time, Sungjoon also has no other choice than to face his “today”.

Trailer embedded below:

The Day He Arrives