By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
I know I go on and on about the willingness of Korean directors to smash together disparate concepts that should never cohere, yet somehow do, so I won’t retread that for this film. Instead, here’s the plot of Vanishing Time:
Three preteen boys and a girl go into the woods and find a cave with a glowing orb in it. The girl is the last to exit the cave, and when she has, all three boys have disappeared. She tells the story of the orb to adults who won’t listen, and whose attitude towards her changes sharply when the body of one of the boys is found buried in a playground. A strange man accosts her in the woods, insisting he’s the boy she had a crush on, all growed up. This somehow becomes a poignant tale of sci-fi, sacrifice, and romance, because of course it does.
It helps when the forest drifter looks like a boy-band model.
It doesn’t take long for the film to settle into a Stranger Things vibe, which should catch the attention of fans of that show, aka everybody, apparently.
Vanishing Time goes very inventive places from there once it gets around to explaining its central mystery, and I won’t reveal the technique, but does great with a particular special effect that illustrates the predicament the main characters find themselves in. This melds well with the more grounded plot of a town mourning for its missing children, and the real stickiness of the plot comes when the outside world learns of what happened, and misinterprets it catastrophically. This isn’t all Spielbergian wonder or hard drama, but rather an interesting mix of the two.
Some of the genre-mixing doesn’t work so well. The kids dabble in the occult (which doesn’t have any apparent connect with the rest of the pot, by the way), including a weird spirit-summoning scene that is scored with jaunty kids movie music… just some buddies making summer memories!
“That summer was a magical summer. We learned so much about ourselves, and the tensile properties of cat intestines.”
When it comes to the big reveal, the technical execution of the world the characters find themselves in is never short of engaging, but after awhile you realize there’s not any apparent internal logic or structure to the rules of this place, which makes the stay there about as frustrating for you as for the characters.
Finally, there’ s a an odd teen girl wish fulfillment vibe to it in places that is, let’s say, interesting… considering what’s going on and the relative ages of those involved. The ending especially can be easily misinterpreted as something a lot ickier.
Vanishing Time is a high-concept sci-fi/coming of age tale that stakes a claim for Korea on yet another genre you never knew existed.
Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for notebooks
Take a Drink: for cryptic writing
Take a Drink: for the egg
Take a Drink: for things floating through the air
Do a Shot: for bizarre twists