BiFan 2023 Review: ABROAD, Tourists Take in the Inhospitable Sights in Eerie and Engrossing Mystery

Contributor; Seoul, South Korea (@pierceconran)
BiFan 2023 Review: ABROAD, Tourists Take in the Inhospitable Sights in Eerie and Engrossing Mystery

A Korean couple travel to Minnesota in search of the Northern Lights, only to come across eerier sights in the taut and engaging mystery Abroad.

This debut feature film from Italian-born ad director Giovanni Fumu offers a smoother cultural cocktail than most east-west co-productions (Abroad is a US-Korea production). The cultural differences still ring out loud and clear, but here they are very much in harmony with a story about a couple disembarking in a strange and foreign land.

Boyfriend Taemin (Jang Seong-beom) and girlfriend Minji (Lim Young-joo) have just arrived in America after a rough flight. Grumpy and recovering from airsickness, Taemin isn't being a terribly helpful partner and it's up to Minji to figure how they can get to their Airbnb. They manage to find they way there after almost getting into in a crash in their rideshare, but things immediately start to feel off.

Where are the pillows and the towels? And who's that knocking on the door in the middle of nowhere? Taemin goes to investigate and when he returns Minji has disappeared. He reports her disappearance to the police but the local sheriff sees him as the prime suspect instead and locks him up. With a few helping hands along the way, Taemin escapes and attempts to track down his lover in an unfamiliar place.

As the story gets stranger and the surroundings more inhospitable, Fumu steadily draws us into an action-mystery pitched somewhere between the dreamy vagaries of Mulholland Drive, the paranoia of Frantic and the locals-preying-on-outsiders thrills of Breakdown.

Out in small-town Minnesota, which looks like a spread out typical American suburb -- imagine a checkered handkerchief stretched to fit over a table -- the camera has the space to move and swing around as it follow's Taemin's language-impaired fugitive-on-the-loose, searching and hiding in and around wood-panelled homes.

Minnesota may not be a natural habit for a young Korean couple, but we've reached a point in time where there are more things connecting these visitors and location.

Taemin and Minji both have some command of English but the biggest cultural bridge comes early on during their rideshare to the cabin. A young woman also along for the ride asks if she can play music, and the Korean couple sitting in the back beam when they recognise the melody of 'Want', a Kpop song by solo artist Taemin.

"Do you know Taemin?" the young girl asks. "My name is Taemin!" the boyfriend sheepishly replies. As the K-pop invasion of the global musical landscape continues apace, this feels like a very comfortable and familiar exchange.

Some savvy viewers may figure out Abroad's mystery long before it's revealed as the narrative doesn't exactly scream originality, but the film's fresh modern cultural mix, smooth style and lean running time make it an engaging ride from start to finish.

Screen Anarchy logo
Do you feel this content is inappropriate or infringes upon your rights? Click here to report it, or see our DMCA policy.
AbroadBiFanco-productionKorean coupleKpopTaemin

Around the Internet