CAST: Song Joong-ki, Choi Sung-eun. Cho Han-cheul

DIRECTOR: Kim Hee-jin

The debut feature film “My Name Is Loh Kiwan,” helmed by director Kim Hee-jin, adapts the novel “I Met Loh Kiwan” by author Cho Hae-jin. The narrative centers on Loh Ki-Wan (portrayed by Song Joong-Ki, renowned for roles in “Reborn Rich” and “Vincenzo”), a filmmaker embarking on a journey to Belgium at his late mother’s behest, seeking a place to call home and pursue personal freedom.

While categorized as a drama, the film unfolds more as a stirring action-romance. Despite its aspirations to explore themes of refuge, love, survival, and self-discovery, the multitude of intersecting plots can feel overwhelming. Nevertheless, Loh Kiwan’s poignant tale resonates, particularly when the focus remains on his struggles and quest for identity amidst adversity, rendering the film a compelling and emotionally resonant experience.

Skipping over the intricate details of his daring escape, “My Name is Loh Kiwan” delves into the narrative as our titular protagonist lands in Brussels following a flight from China. Caught in immigration limbo while awaiting the processing of his refugee application, Kiwan finds himself stranded amidst the chilly streets of the Belgian capital. His vulnerability exposes him to various unsavory characters, culminating in a harrowing mugging incident.

Stripped of his most cherished possession—a weathered wallet containing meager funds and a sole photograph of his deceased mother—Kiwan seeks assistance from the authorities. Surveillance footage implicates another Korean, Marie (played by Choi Sung-eun), a former Olympic sharpshooter now ensnared in drug addiction, as the perpetrator of the theft.

Marie’s predicament adds a layer of absurdity to the storyline. As a wealthy Korean expatriate with a strained relationship with her father (played by Cho Han-cheul), she becomes entangled with Waël Sersoub’s dubious criminal syndicate. Manipulated by drugs and coerced into participating in illicit sharpshooting competitions within an ominous underground setting, Marie’s descent into this dark world is both tragic and surreal.

In fleeting moments of clarity, Marie assists Kiwan in securing employment at a meatpacking facility, where he masquerades as a Korean-Chinese migrant. However, complications arise when Kiwan must substantiate his status as a genuine North Korean refugee to Belgian authorities.

Where Kim’s debut feature falters is in its lack of narrative direction. While there’s undeniable potential for a compelling drama centered around the struggles of those fleeing across the 38th parallel and the bureaucratic hurdles hindering their quest for freedom, the film fails to fully commit to exploring these themes cohesively.


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