In a rundown village, cerebral palsy sufferer Seong-gook (Kang Seong-gook (강성국) runs a small news stand in the local subway station. Largely ignored or mistreated by the various inhabitants, Seong-gook dreams of becoming a dancer and spends his evenings drinking soju and dancing in the rain. Also residing in the village is high school student Seon-woo (Yeo Hyo-rim (여효림) who, with little future prospects, joins the workforce only to quickly learn of the hardships that entails. On one particular night Seong-sook and Seon-woo cross paths, and find inspiration.
Waiting for the Snow is one of the more bizarre offerings within the Korean Film Competition at JIFF 2015, in that the film is constructed so haphazardly it is difficult to know exactly what is going on or what director Jang Hee-chul (장희철) is trying to achieve. For the majority of Waiting for the Snow‘s running time, the narrative aimlessly jumps between disparate characters and events which are confusing and often entirely superfluous, resulting in a story that is extremely difficult to engage with or invest in. Random tangents, such as Seong-gook’s friends and an attractive girl receiving perverse attention on the subway, continually enter and exit the narrative and serve merely as distractions, adding precious little to the erratic mix. The film only truly finds direction in the final act as Seong-gook and Seon-woo coincidently meet and stroll through the village together, yet their fleeting encounter leads to a rather farcical, and somewhat cringeworthy, finale that dissolves a lot of the prior chemistry.
In conjunction with the disorganised script, aside from a few scenes of attractive cinematography, Waiting for the Snow is also technically found wanting. The direction is competent yet lifeless, the editing is poor, and the soundtrack is particularly incompatible with what’s occurring onscreen. Director Jang attempts to infuse the film with whimsical, surreal moments as Seong-gook attempts to fulfil his dream of dancing, however these scenes are so at odds with the predominantly social-realist aesthetic of the film that they don’t mesh well with the rest of his vision.
With the exception of charismatic Seung-gook, who oddly disappears for much of the central act, poor casting and acting also serve as distractions throughout the film. As teenager Seon-woo, actress Yeo Hyo-rim is rather schizophrenic in that her characterisation veers from too-cool-for-school bad girl, to shy worker, to rage fuelled victim, to innocent youngster. Her clearly older age is also an issue, although it’s nothing compared to her school friends who appear middle-aged, in conjunction with some truly horrible acting. Seung-gook’s shrieking ‘ajumma’ subway friends are a further annoyance. With precious few protagonists to invest in, Waiting for the Snow is very much a laborious viewing experience.
Waiting for the Snow is a frustrating endeavour. Featuring an erratic narrative structure alongside technical issues and poor acting, director Jang Hee-chul’s film is especially difficult to engage with and invest in. The film only truly finds direction in the final act, yet it is too little too late to save audiences from what is ultimately a laborious viewing experience.