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Movie Critique: Task at Hand (2023) directed by Park Hong-jun
Movie Critique: Task at Hand (2023) directed by Park Hong-jun

Movie Critique: Task at Hand (2023) directed by Park Hong-jun

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A highly theatrical event portrayed infrequently in movies.

In movies, the idea of large corporations laying off a large number of employees (known as “restructuring”) is typically shown from the perspective of those being let go. However, Park Hong-jun, drawing from his own personal experience, decided to portray the situation from the point of view of the individuals responsible for the layoffs. This approach is just as emotionally impactful.

The film Work to Do was shown at the Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema.

Kang Jun-hee, an assistant manager at a shipyard company called Hanyang Heavy Industries, was moved to the Human Resources department after several years of working in the company. This decision was made by his superior due to a decrease in orders at the shipyard, which resulted in the board of directors being pressured by creditors to restructure the company. As a result, the HR department was responsible for convincing employees to either transfer or leave with a “favorable” package. Jun-hee’s department worked together to come up with new ideas to make the restructuring fair and efficient, but faced challenges when dealing with actual individuals. The stress of his job also affected Jun-hee’s personal life, as his fiancé had recently moved into the apartment he purchased with a loan from the company.

Park Hong-jun is the director of a film that centers on a key inquiry. Is it worthwhile to excel at your job if your job is terrible? The entire plot, including the protagonist’s journey, seems to stem from this question, with Hong-jun’s decline providing a clear response. In addition, it is intriguing to observe the inner workings of large companies at the executive level, with the office “politics” realistically depicted through a mix of submission and occasional conflict with higher-ups.

Finally, Park concludes his “portrait” by illustrating the interactions between the HR department and those they need to persuade, including the employees and sometimes even higher-ranking individuals. This provides a comprehensive depiction of the concept of restructuring. The relationships are primarily characterized by hostility, suspicion, and conflict, and the restructuring process is influenced by factors such as seniority, position, education, and gender. Despite the bleakness of the situation, the focus remains on portraying a realistic depiction.

The combination of these elements creates a dramatic tone in the movie, but Park’s skillful direction prevents it from becoming overly emotional. Instead, the film maintains a balanced pace and sense of proportion throughout its 101-minute runtime. The scenes of conflict and the difficult decisions HR employees must make, including firing friends and mentors, as well as the role of the only woman in the department, all contribute to the overall narrative. This is mirrored by the protagonist’s personal struggles at home.

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Also, take a look at this interview.

Choi Chang-hwan’s filming captures all of the previously mentioned elements with a realistic approach, without any excessive embellishment. However, the “peaking” scenes do add a touch of visual style. As previously stated, Jo Hyun-ju’s editing maintains a well-paced flow, which is one of the film’s greatest strengths.

Jang Sung-bum’s portrayal of Jun-hee is outstanding, skillfully showcasing his declining mental state with eloquence and restraint. This is in perfect alignment with the film’s visual style. Seo Suk-kyu, playing Jun-hee’s superior, also delivers a strong performance as a man who has fully embraced the corporate culture and attempts to persuade the newcomer to do the same.

“Work to Do” is a remarkable film that portrays a dramatic occurrence from a unique perspective rarely seen in movies. The film maintains its authenticity and careful balance throughout its entire duration.