Festival is a rather strange English name to give to a film that centers around a funeral. Directed by Im Kwon Taek, the story is about a family whose matriarch passes away and they all gather together to mourn her passing.
The principal protagonist is probably going to be An Sung-Gee's character, the eldest remaining son of the grandmother, and consequently, the one with all the funeral rite organizing duties. Thrown into the mix are a series of additional family members, many who have almost as much screen time as the protagonist. As such, while many of the characters do interact, it's clear that this film intertwines separate stories using this single event as the inciter. On the plus side, the threads do come to some thematic closure.
Problems beset the family as they prepare for the funeral and while the story moves at a slow enough pace that it seems longer than the 106 minute running time would suggest, it does keep its pace and never becomes too slow, even as it wanders and lacks any strong dynamism. Some of the more imaginative parts of the story include a story within the movie, in the form of a children's story written by the protagonist that plays out on screen that acts as a sort of imperfect over-narrative to the different narratives in the film.
And the result of the film is quite heartening. Themes of reconciliation, regret, family history/shame, and more pop up in the film. Some of the minor stories however don't really get good enough treatment (like a potential case of infidelity) to really justify their presence in the film, but even as they seem extraneous, they seem quite natural all the same and so they don't really drag down the story so much as leave us wondering why they are present.
And, in the end, the film does it's portraiture well. I don't imagine this film aiming for some great statement about life and death, but rather intending to be a picture of a family and how one can drift apart, but also the ability for it to come back together nonetheless. And for that it's an admirable, natural and honest look at family through the Corean funeral ceremony (which is really really involved!). 7/10.
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