Written and directed by Davy Chou, Return to Seoul (2022) is a feature-length drama film that revolves around the quest of young Freddie, a girl who was given up for adoption by her birth parents when she was born, to retrace her roots in a country that she knows nothing about. Although Korean by birth, Freddie has grown up in France surrounded by high Western culture, which has inadvertently affected her sense of identity, leaving many aspects of her life shrouded in perpetual darkness. Thus, she embarks on a lifelong quest to seek out those hidden sections of her life’s history that involve her biological parents and her true South Korean roots. Starring Ji-Min Park, Guka Han, Oh Kwang-rok, Yoann Zimmer, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Kim Sun-young, Jin Heo, and Cho-woo Choi, this film features a seriously impressive narrative that is molded into the shape of a modern odyssey to find one’s lost identity.
‘Return To Seoul’ Story
Twenty-five-year-old Frédérique Benoît, or ‘Freddie’ in short, a French citizen, ‘accidentally’ arrives in South Korea since her journey to Tokyo was hindered due to the cancellation of her flight. She decides to stop at a hotel, where she befriends Tena, a local girl, and the receptionist of the hotel. They visit a local restaurant where Freddie meets a friend of Tena’s, and they have a good time drinking and talking about their cultures. On the topic of her family, Freddie admits that she was adopted by French parents as a child and had no idea who her original birth parents were except for the fact that they were Korean. She is informed by Tena and her friend that if she wanted to get in touch with her biological parents, she would have to do so through the Hammond Center for Adoption. To alleviate the seriousness of the conversation, Freddie joins tables with a few other young locals in the restaurant, and at the end of the night, she ends up sleeping with a local boy, who is later found to be smitten by her. The next morning, she decides to pay a visit to the Hammond Center to inquire about her past and gets told that her birth parents lived separately and she could not directly contact them, but the agency could send telegrams to them, asking whether they wanted to meet her. Helpless from a legal standpoint, she instructs the agency to go forth with the telegrams, but as it turns out, only her father accepts the request, and eager to meet with him, Freddie sets out with her friend, Tena, who would act as a translator since Freddie did not know the local language.
When she arrives at her biological father’s house, Freddie feels the atmosphere is unbearably agonizing for her, as her father, who suffers from a drinking problem, cannot keep his emotions in check and keeps imposing his sorrows and regrets on her. Being an independent woman, Freddie dislikes feeling trapped, and when the sorrowful history of why her parents had given her away gradually began seeping in, she was unable to cope with reality. But, upon being insisted, she agrees to spend a few nights with her father’s family. Later on, her father keeps sending her drunken voice notes and messages in Korean, which, although she does not understand, she finds overwhelming and decides to ignore. When the time comes for her to leave South Korea, Freddie attempts to kiss Tena after severely mocking the feelings of the boy she had slept with on the first night, but she pulls away, calling her a ‘sad person.’ Dejected, Freddie tries to bring the restaurant’s DJ to her hotel room, but her father, who is completely drunk, intercepts them and starts complaining about his pain and the fact that she does not return any of his messages. Overwhelmed by the ruckus, Freddie screams out and leaves him there. Two years after this incident, Freddie returns to live in Seoul, and her lover, André, throws her a birthday party without telling her about it. She acts out at the gesture, saying that she does not like celebrating her birthday as it reminds her of her biological mother. Later on in the party, she confesses to a friend that her birth mother had, in fact, responded to her telegrams almost two years after her initial visit to the country, saying that she did not want to meet her, which had shattered her.
‘Return To Seoul’ Ending
Again, after a long gap of five years, Freddie returns to South Korea on a business trip with Maxime, her boyfriend. Now able to understand and converse in broken Korean, Freddie meets up with her father and her aunt, along with Maxime. When asked about her occupation, she states that she sells missiles to the government for defense purposes, and that is the reason why she has had to return to South Korea. Her father seems better than before, and he claims that he does not drink as much anymore. He also appears to be much calmer in his attitude when he politely asks Freddie whether he can play a little piano piece he had arranged for her on his phone, and this gesture instills a sense of belonging in her. But while returning back to their hotel, Freddie decides to break up with Maxime, as she does not like the way he had described her job to her father and aunt while at the restaurant. She is truly surprised the next morning when she gets a call from the Hammond Center telling her that her biological mother has finally agreed to meet with her, and she heads over to the agency to see her for the first time since her birth. She is unable to hold back her tears as her mother enters the room and embraces her, and they share an emotional but beautiful moment together. Another year goes by, and Freddie is shown checking into an unknown hotel when she tries sending an email to her mother saying that she felt she was finally happy and that she was sorry for being unable to contact her till now, but fails as the receiver’s address appears to be nonexistent. The film draws the curtains with Freddie site-reading a beautiful piece of music and playing the melancholic score on the piano in the hotel lobby, leaving the audience with a poetic combination of unresolved longing and ecstasy.