Compelling spin on a recycled concept

Doctor Kim Joon Young (Kim Myung Min) is caught in a time loop in the thriller, A Day.
Doctor Kim Joon Young (Kim Myung Min) is caught in a time loop in the thriller, A Day.PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

REVIEW / MYSTERY THRILLER

A DAY (PG13)

90 minutes/Opens tomorrow/4/5 stars

The story: Returning to Seoul after an overseas trip, doctor Kim Joon Young (Kim Myung Min) arranges to meet his headstrong young daughter Eun Jung (Jo Eun Hyung). On the way to the rendezvous, he witnesses a car accident and realises his daughter was killed in it. And then the day starts all over again for him.

The premise of a time loop has been used in films as diverse as romance comedy Groundhog Day (1993) and sci-fi military thriller Edge Of Tomorrow (2014).

South Korean director and co- writer Cho Sun Ho manages to put a fresh spin on it to deliver a tight and taut thriller elevated by philosophical shadings.

The key questions, as always, are: Why is the time loop happening? What needs to be changed in order for time to move on?

Actor Kim (Behind The White Tower, 2007) conveys the wrenching anguish of a father forced to relive his daughter's death again and again and his increasing desperation as he tries to alter the course of events.

With each repetition, you keep your eyes peeled, wondering which detail will prove to be the key that unlocks the puzzle.

And then Cho drops a bombshell. Emergency services first responder Lee Min Chul (a completely unrecognisable Byun Yo Han from his role as an irritating intern in Misaeng, 2014) approaches the doctor to reveal that he is reliving the same day as well. This is in the trailer so it is not exactly a spoiler for audiences.

Gradually, the characters discover how they are linked to one another.

At one point, someone remarks that this is a version of hell, reliving a day of tragedy over and over again.

So how does one break the cycle of suffering and vengeance?

A Day is a satisfying thriller that turns out to be a rumination on Buddhist concepts of karma, rebirth and deliverance.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Compelling spin on a recycled concept'. Print Edition | Subscribe