Runaway from Home (2009) Movie Review

“Runaway from Home” (also known by the more literal title “Looking for my Wife”) marks the return of “Bewitching Attraction” director Lee Ha, and sees him again dealing with the difference between the sexes in offbeat fashion. This time around he and producer Noh Dong Seok have managed to pull together an intriguing cast, headlined by popular actor Ji Jin Hee (“Parallel Life”) and Yang Ik Joon, currently the prince of the Korean indie scene after his much praised 2009 international hit “Breathless”. With support from character actor Lee Moon Shik (also in “Fly, Daddy, Fly” and “A Bloody Aria”) and actress Kim Kyu Ri (recently in “Rainbow Eyes”), the film is an amusing and unconventional affair that follows its leading men on the winding road to find the titular missing woman.

The film begins with arrogant music critic Seong Hee (Ji Jin Hee) declaring during his live radio show that he plans to divorce his wife Young Shim (Kim Kyu Ri) only to return home to find that she has already left him several days ago. Deciding that he has to know why, he teams with his friend, and Young Shim’s former flame Dong Min (Yang Ik Joon), and set out to find her, despite having no idea where to look. Their journey takes them through a catalogue of old acquaintances and eventually leads them to a strange man (Lee Moon Shik) who claims to be her brother, but who may just be a conman trying to hide out from gangsters.

The greatest asset of “Runaway from Home” is its charmingly random feel, as it meanders around in amiable fashion and with about as much drive as its bumbling characters. Certainly, the way that Seong Hee and Dong Min go about their quest really makes little sense, as rather than doing anything constructive they content themselves with looking through contacts on Young Shim’s old phone and taking the advice of a dodgy fortune teller. As a result, the film is decidedly anecdotal, playing out like a road movie, bouncing around between different tangential leads and encounters with oddball characters, very few of whom actually have anything to do with the search for Young Shim. This does lead to some amusingly unconnected sequences, including time spent at a self help seminar, most of which seems to have been included simply for a few laughs. As well as making for lots of gags, this approach fits the material very well, the film benefits from its laid back atmosphere whilst still managing to generate some vague interest in the central mystery as to why Young Shim disappeared in the first place.

Perhaps a greater mystery is why Seong Hee is so desperate to find her, since it becomes increasingly obvious that he doesn’t really know or even seem to like his wife much at all, and is clearly unbothered by male pride or common sense. This in itself makes for a number of laughs, as more and more bizarre facts are uncovered about the life she seems to have been living right under his nose.

Despite his glaring lack of sensitivity, Seong Hee does make for an oddly likeable protagonist, and his relationship with Dong Min gives the film a winning sense of camaraderie, mainly thanks to a pair of well judged performances by Ji Jin Hee and Yang Ik Joon. The two spend most of their time together bickering and cursing at each other, with director Lee eschewing the usual buddy film clichés in favour of a more believable yet comedic dynamic. Turning up at around the hour mark, Lee Moon Shik injects a few welcome twists into the plot with his somewhat enigmatic role, shaking up the male bonding and causing a fair bit of chaos.

The only real problem with “Runaway from Home” is that Lee loses his nerve towards the end, with the last fifteen minutes or so heading into personal journey territory in disappointingly sappy fashion. Although this by no means undoes all of his good work, a less conventional conclusion would have undoubtedly been more satisfying. Still, the film remains entertaining and offbeat, enough so to make it stand out as crowd pleasing comedy with an all important touch of indie sensibilities.

Lee Ha (director) / Lee Ha (screenplay)
CAST: Ji Jin-hee, Yang Ik-joon, Lee Moon-sik, Kim Yeo-jin, Ok Ji-yeong, Kwon Byeong-gil

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