by Elizabeth Stoddard
Themes of displacement and loneliness are woven into Huieun Park’s quiet drama Two Lunes, which had its world premiere at Austin Film Festival yesterday. Two women — one in Korea and one in Los Angeles — are depicted in the film’s parallel structure.
Lan (Kieu Thu Pham) is a Vietnamese student in Seoul, sharing an apartment with a roommate and working as a kitchen hand to pay her bills. She has a small group of friends that are more like acquaintances and a sister in another part of the country whom she hasn’t seen in years. She spends much of the film inside her own head, wandering the city streets at nighttime so she won’t interfere with her roommate’s sex life.
Korean Siyeon (Hyesung Moon) is staying in a hostel in L.A. for a period as she studies for graduate school exams. She feels stranded after the closest friend she has at the hostel moves in with an American. Her days are spent at the library, where she silently videochats with her boyfriend back home, asking when he will visit.
Both women, who never meet in Two Lunes, are softspoken outsiders in a noisy, unfamiliar setting. The actresses deliver mostly contained performances. Moon as Siyeon faces away from her laptop so the person giving her bad news can’t see her reaction. As a hostel guest accuses her of stealing something and harasses her about it, gestures of disgust, annoyance and fear play across her face. Pham as Lan is allowed more emotional release. She cries to her sister, asking, “How come people say sorry so simply when it’s over?” Two women in her life are abused by their partners, and Lan is uncertain of how to help — or if she can.
Park, who wrote, directed and edited the film, captures the essence of these women as they wonder about their place in another culture. It’s easy to see that neither Siyeon or Lan are completely comfortable in their current surroundings. Will they be remembered in this foreign place? Or remain invisible and unknown? Two Lunes shows us the layers to these characters, and the movie’s open-ended conclusion gives no obvious answer.
Two Lunes plays again Monday, Nov. 2, 5:30pm at Alamo Drafthouse Village.