Title: The Senior Class(Fantasia 2017)

Also known as:

Year: 2017

Genre: Animation / Drama

Language: Korean

Runtime: 82 min

Director: Hong Deok-pyo

Writer: Yeon Sang-ho


With graduation around the corner, Jung-woo and his fellow classmates are working on their final thesis projects. At the top of the class is Ju-hee; a young woman who interacts with her classmates very little but Jung-woo spends his time admiring her from afar. Too afraid to speak to her. As chance would have it, while helping his buddy out with a late night delivery, Jung-woo ends up crossing paths with Ju-hee and uncovers the secret that causes her to separate from others: she works as a hostess at night. This secret allows a relationship to develop between the two but it could also be the thing that tears them apart.

Our thoughts:
I was formerly introduced to Yeon Sang-Ho (probably best known for “Train to Busan” at this point) at last year’s Fantasia International Film Festival with his “Seoul Station”. He didn’t return this year to Fantasia with a new film of his but he’s here in spirit with “The Senior Class” — a film Yeon Sang-Ho wrote and produced with his studio DADAshow. “The Senior Class” is helmed by Hong Deok-pyo; a man with a few directorial projects under his belt but most notably “Master and Man” and “If You Were Me: Anima Vision 2”.

As noted by the film’s press sheet, “The Senior Class” looks to examine the transitional period of kid to adult with its primary character being Jung-woo — a senior at an art university. While the film is attempting to delve into lofty themes, it’s structured as a slice-of-life story around the approaching graduation of Jung-woo, his friend Dong-hwa and the young woman who’s at the head of the class, Ju-hee. Even though Jung-woo has a crush on Ju-hee, he has never approached or even spoken to her. That is until they cross paths when Jung-woo is out on a delivery and discovers Ju-hee’s secret life as a hostess. With this shared secret the two form an unusual relationship but things begin to fall apart when Dong-hwa becomes involved.

“The Senior Class” is a bit of tricky film to process. On the surface, it is a well done character piece that shows how messy relationships can be at that age where by society standards you are in fact an adult, yet the reality is you’re still emotionally immature. You worry about what’s being whispered in the halls. The inability to approach someone out of fear of rejection. Avoiding personal responsibility. Not being honest with others about your feelings. Hong Deok-pyo and Yeon Sang-Ho cover the spectrum of emotional issues you carry when you’re in your early-20s. To their credit, they do it in a naturalistic way where it’s not coming from a place of commentary and it’s not burying the movie under these themes. It treats it in a more casual manner but never losing that realistic touch that the DADAshow films have a tendency to carry.

Where the movie falters is with the characters and the relationship between them. Primarily the Ju-hee character. Even though story is told through Jung-woo’s perspective, Ju-hee becomes an equally important character if not more so. The catalyst to the film is Jung-woo’s discovery of Ju-hee’s secret and how it affects her relationships with others and her future as an artist — so in reality, “The Senior Class” is Ju-hee’s story. The problem arises in that we are never treated to Ju-hee’s story; we get to experience it through Jung-woo. Leaving the audience with an unfortunate emotional disconnect with Ju-hee, and worst of all, we understand her character less by the end of the movie.

It’s done with explicit intentions of showing that no matter how much Jung-woo cared for Ju-hee, or how much he thought he did, he never really knew who she was as a person. Only want she was to him and his emotional needs. Treating her as little more than a fantasy, even when he finally begins a casual relationship with her. It's a fantastic device for this kind of story but it’s done at the cost of Ju-hee’s story and her as a character outright.

However, I will say that the way that “The Senior Class” handles that aspect of the story — when we push our happiness, our love as being the responsibility of someone else's— is admirable as it’s not something that’s discussed when it comes to relationship. It’s an important factor in emotional maturity by understanding that there is a difference between infatuation and actual love. The film is fairly blunt with this element and Jung-woo explains this verbally, through narration, and visually through his webcomic that he creates. Even though the film spells this pivotal point out to the viewer, it's still appreciative that it’s in the movie at all. As it is an important lesson to learn when you’re young and begin to venture into the territory of serious and mature relationships.

“The Senior Class” isn’t as strong as it could because of how it disregarded the Ju-hee character who was crucial to the story. Overall though, Hong Deok-pyo and Yeon Sang-Ho do a commendable job of constructing a movie that’s telling a story of how emotionally immature we are in that period of time of transcending into adulthood. They do it in such a way that the film has a much more casual feel to it and never comes across as heavy-handed as it goes through the lives of these characters during this moment in their life.

Positive things:
- Uses its main character to illustrate a complicated point about the difference between infatuation and love when it comes to relationships.
- Attempts to cover real-life themes of relationships and adulthood without being heavy-handed.
- Maintains a fairly realistic tone.
Negative things:
- Needlessly disregards the Ju-hee character (and her story) who is equally as important as the protagonist of the movie.
- Much like DADAshow’s other movies, the animation is too stiff and rigid when it comes to movement.

Gore: 0/5
Nudity: 2.5/5
Story: 3/5
Effects: 0/5
Comedy: 1/5

We watched this movie thanks to:
Fantasia International Film Festival 2017

Reviewed by:




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