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In a remote village when a storm hits, a girl named Se-jin (Roh Jeong-eui) disappears. A letter was found at his residence, while the girl’s shoes lay on the edge of a cliff. All findings lead to one conclusion: Se-jin committed suicide due to mental stress. All parties are reasonable, because the fate of this teenager is unfortunate. He is brought to the village by the police, as Se-jin is a key witness in his father’s major smuggling case. Living alone in a foreign place while bearing sadness is certainly not easy, especially for a child his age. Top Movie Site

Is it really that simple? If the answer is “yes”, of course Park Ji-wan’s debut as a director and scriptwriter will not be made. But don’t be fooled by the cover. The Day I Died: Unclosed Case does offer a mystery-style investigation, but rather than the case itself, more emphasis is placed on the victim. Victims who will be forgotten once the case is closed. Victims are only considered as one part of the case, like inanimate objects, instead of humans with all their complexities.

Then we are introduced to the main character. Kim Hyeon-soo (Kim Hye-soo), a police officer who has just returned from his recess. Hyeon-soo’s psychic condition is not good. Divorce triggered by the husband’s infidelity, until accusations of disciplinary action continue to haunt. Before officially returning to duty, he is asked to investigate Se-jin’s death. Not to dig up the truth or find out his whereabouts (whether he is alive or not), but a form of formality, so that the case can be closed immediately.

As a mystery dish, The Day I Died: Unclosed Case still has a basic problem, namely making simple things seem convoluted. For example, the names that continue to be thrown, without giving the audience a chance to digest, whose name is meant. This practice is commonly used in investigative-themed films, because basically, investigation is a matter of connecting a common thread (which is often tangled up) between many individuals. Understandable enough. We are required to pay extra attention.

It’s different about Park Ji-wan’s efforts to apply fast-paced storytelling, by refusing to linger at one point. On the plus side, the plot doesn’t feel draggy. But without neatness of speech, there is no need for complexities to be present, including from poor editing. Flashbacks appear several times, and there is often confusion as to whether the plot is in the present, or has entered flashbacks. Best Movie

But as already stated, The Day I Died: Unclosed Case emphasizes character studies rather than cases. Hyeon-soo’s investigation leads him to meet witnesses, the detective who used to help Se-jin, to Sooncheon Daek (if Lee Jung-eun terrorized us before in Parasite, this time on the contrary, he was able to steal hearts), a mute woman who lent her house to be lived in by Se -genie. As the process progresses, the detective begins to realize that his condition and that of Se-jin have similarities.

That’s where the drama aspect of the film comes from, and Park Ji-wan’s script finds its strength. A heartbreaking parallel is presented between the detective and the victim, making the protagonist (as well as the audience) question the essence of the police investigation. What is the true meaning of the term “case closed”? Is it when the case is officially declared over? Is that enough? If not, how far should the truth be sought?

Instead of “just” solving cases, Hyeon-soo tries to get to know Se-jin’s figure, which actually brings him closer to the truth. The truth about individuals who are suffering, injured, even exiled, due to the faults of others. Park Ji-wan presents a different perspective (which feels hopeful even though the feel of the film is dark and sometimes depressive) about suffering. When someone suffers to the point of being destructive, he doesn’t necessarily want to die. Maybe that’s how it survives. That’s the way to maintain “feel”, because losing taste is tantamount to death. Movie Review

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