The transition between childhood to the adult life can sometimes be quite jarring, a lesson four young men are unceremoniously forced to learn in the Korean film One Way Trip. These friends will eventually come to understand that the decisions made solely for survival may sometimes be the hardest to live with in the end.
Main Cast: Kim Jisoo as Yong Bi, Ryu Junyeol as Ji Gong, Kim Heechan as Doo Man, and Kim Junmyeon (Exo’s Suho) as Sang Woo
Release Date: March 24, 2016
Running Time: 93 minutes
Summary: Yong Bi, Ji Gong, Doo Man, and Sang Woo are four close friends who are all at the age where they toe the line between teenager and adult. Yong Bi and Ji Gong have both failed their college entrance exams while Doo Man is set to attend university on a baseball scholarship despite not excelling at the sport. Meanwhile, Sang Woo has signed up to complete his military service unbeknownst to his sole guardian, his grandmother. In a final hurrah before Sang Woo leaves for his enlistment, the four friends decide to take a trip to Pohang to enjoy the simple luxuries of the beach and raw seafood. However, their carefree trip is soon to find a sudden unpleasant end when the boys happen across a man beating his female partner at night on the waterfront.
Yong Bi is quick to step in and protect the woman, urging his friends to follow. They do so, only for the scuffle to turn into an all-out brawl. The man is left unconscious as the boys run away from the police for fear of complicating the situation further, despite their innocence. However, this chase ends with an accident none of the friends could have seen coming. Friendship, authority figures, and rules will be broken and tested as the boys try to come to terms with the consequences of their actions.
Review: One Way Trip (also known by the title Glory Day) is not the type of movie you curl up to watch on a lazy Friday night with a bowl of popcorn for some good fun. It’s much too dark for that. But it is the kind of film that will leave you thinking: perhaps about your own friendships, perhaps about your childhood. It’s a sobering reminder that not all stories have happy endings – and sometimes the best outcome possible may feel like the worst. So let’s look at some of the details of this film, minor spoilers be warned.
To start, the four main actors, most of them rising rookies in the entertainment industry, all gave heartfelt and believable performances in the film. And boy, did their roles in One Way Trip demand this. Kim Jisoo, who you might recognize from his breakout roles in Angry Mom and Sassy, Go Go, took the central role of the four in a rough-around-the-edges character that was right up his alley. Ryu Junyeol shot to fame with his lead role in the latest installment of the Reply saga last year, though his character in this film was a bit more fiery than the character of Jung Hwan. And I have to say I enjoyed seeing this more aggressive side of him. Kim Heechan is a fairly new actor to the scene. Though he had his breakthrough role last year in The Producers, I recognized him instead from his recent drama Cheese in the Trap. And finally Kim Junmyeon, alternatively known as Suho from Exo, is definitely the most inexperienced actor of the bunch but held his own amongst these other talented men. I had some doubts after seeing his acting in some less serious projects but he really stepped up to the plate for One Way Trip. I am pleased to say I was surprised by his performance. I will admit that I watched this movie at first because I am both an Exo-L and huge Jisoo fan, so Suho and Jisoo were the driving forces of my interest in this movie. For any of similar minds as me, Suho did not have as much screen time as I had expected despite being an absolutely critical character, so be warned. He still manages to leave quite an impact in the scenes he does have, so I wasn’t too disappointed in the end.
Each of the four friends had very distinctive personalities and problems that they faced, which lent a realism to the characters. Yong Bi was the hot-headed one who stepped up into an almost leader role in the group; he was a bad student and always the first to start trouble. Though I would also say Yong Bi was arguably the most loyal of the four friends and the most bothered by injustice, perhaps because of his family history. Sang Woo was the most gentle and caring of the four, which makes the conclusion to his storyline all the more heartbreaking. Doo Man and Ji Gong were similar characters in that both were facing certain pressures from their parents. In the end, some decisions they made could likely have been avoided were they not goaded on by fear and the expectations of people around them.
I thought the staggered storyline the writers chose to use for the movie fit the plot very well. This meaning that while the film opened with the four friends running from the police together, it alternated between scenes of the boys after their fateful encounter in Pohang and the moments leading up to this. So in essence the writers juxtapositioned the happy moments of their friendship before they were introduced to deceit and death and doubt and the struggles they faced after. I liked the slow reveal of the events and thought it balanced the storyline quite fittingly. However, I did manage to accurately predict the plot twist at the end of the film about halfway through One Way Trip. This wasn’t because it was trite of overplayed however; I simply saw that it was the only possible outcome that would give the friends a marginally happy ending. Marginally being the key word: you might find yourself crying as the credits roll regardless.
Now, I will say the One Way Trip left me with a few unanswered questions that I feel the writers tried to answer to an unsatisfactory level. For example, I still don’t understand why Sang Woo didn’t tell his grandmother he was enlisting in the military beforehand. He leaves her a letter by way of explanation, which certainly is useful for dramatic effect in the film, but it seems unlikely that someone would say goodbye to their sole family member this way. Additionally, I am still confused as to why the boys were running from the police to begin with, after their fight with the man in Pohang. They were attacked by him unprovoked and didn’t need to run: they even admitted to themselves they were innocent. So why bother? I suppose I’ll have to let it go as one of the mistakes of their youth. The rest of the plot couldn’t have unfolded as it did without this crucial event anyways.
Finally, it’s interesting to note that there are two different English titles for this movie that have been used interchangeably. The first, Glory Day, seems to capture the youthful spirit of the film inherent in the coming-of-age plot line. The “glory days” of youth, if you will. I think the second title One Way Trip is much more fitting however. These four boys set out on one last trip before they have to say goodbye to the happy, easy times of childhood. There isn’t a return trip in the end, and they must face their futures for better or worse because of this.
Conclusion: If you’ve got some tissues to spare and time on your hands, I would wholeheartedly recommend One Way Trip for anyone who enjoys coming-of-age stories about friendship. And while it fails to deliver a happy ending, the performances and message are nonetheless striking and memorable.