A Friday Film: Microhabitat (2017)
Updated: Feb 1
Microhabitat, written and directed by Jeon Go-woon.
South-Korea's Award-Winning, Up-&-Coming Jeon Go-woon creates the story of 'A Simple Love For Luxurious Things.'
The synopsis of Microhabitat is unique and unassuming: Mi-so, a young thirty-year-old woman, willingly gives up her basic necessities in life to protect the three things she treasures most: cigarettes, whisky and her boyfriend.
A former musician, Mi-so struggles with rent and bills as a housekeeper. As fees and cigarette-prices rise, she decides to leave her room and boards at the homes of former bandmates; short-moments only. Although near-penniless, Mi-so is generous, always buying a carton of eggs before visiting her friends. She is criticized; how could one live in poverty, and maintain a taste for the barely-affordable luxuries like cigarettes and whiskey.
Produced by the independent production outlet Gwanghwamun Cinema, Microhabitat attracted 46,000 viewers in the first two weeks since its release. Screen Anarchy reviewed the film as "vibrant and fun, yet always thoughtful and often poignant." The rights to the film have been sold to multiple Asian countries including of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam and China.
The writer and director Jeon Go-woon deserves the acclaim. 2018, She received the Grand Bell Award for Best New Director, the Blue Dragon Film Award for Best New Director, and the Grand Bell Award for Best Original Screenplay: Microhabitat. In an interview with Actor Ahn Jae-hong for Screen-Anarchy, Jeon talks about the selflessness of her character Mi-so, and the duality of her compassion: she is both youthful and maternal in the way she interacts with others.
While transitioning from house to house, Miso makes a beautiful meal for the keyboardist, cleans the house of the drummer, listens to the heartbreak of her best-friend, pianist, and even, in one of the most touching scenes, comforts the young woman from the prostitute business who makes her redundant.
The romance in the film is sensitive and modest. Simple, one might say. They are earnest, kind. Jeon comments on the fact that Han-sol's character is a very Korean character, however, he is the sort of character that has been forced to sacrifice----to suffer----under thee patriarchal societal pressures. In this way, he is symbolic.
The engine of the film is the brilliant performances. Esom as Miso, Ahn Jae-hong as Han-sol, and the rest of the cast who truly became their characters: in fashion, manner and style. They are true, and speak of reality, hope and the casting-away of shared dreams.
The foundation: memories alluded, recalled, almost-relived and left unaddressed. And this is enough. It shows Mi-so's contentment; her forgivingness-------the way she still sees the best in her friends despite the fact that they do not treat her with the same hospitality that she once treated them. Hers is a life of love.
The film sought to alleviate the widespread prejudice against women who smock and enjoy alcohol. Although Mi-so smokes and drinks, she is neither irresponsible, wild nor violent. She is contemplative, and quiet.
As the reviewer, I do not wish to glorify the film's depictions of homelessness, smoking or drinking, but rather, highlight the underlining message in its question-form. What do you prioritize?
Despite its subtle criticism towards Korean societal convictions and its sure depiction of economical-struggles, Jeon Go-woon's film is real and genuine in its portrayal of Korean culture and its people.
Microhabitat is a wonderful film, intentional and thoughtful. The color-scheme in soft-beige and cream, alongside the cinematography, adds to the artistry of this narrative.
Winning thirteen different awards, including the Tigar Uncaged Award for Best Feature Film at the 17th New York Asain Film Festival, Microhabitat would be a beautiful-watch for anyone looking for a film that is not only thought-provoking, but also calm and entertaining.
references: "Busan 2017 Review: MICROHABITAT, a Poignant and Lively Debut". ScreenAnarchy. 19 October 2017. https://screenanarchy.com/2018/07/pending-nyaff-2018-interview-director-jeon-go-woon-and-actor-ahn-jae-hong-talk-love-and-poverty-in-m.html.