Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Monday, April 24, time 7.45


By date


By title



Contradictory elements come together in intriguing ways in Choi Kook-hee’s Split, one of the Korean film industry’s most satisfying debut films of 2016. Yoo Ji-tae portrays an accomplished bowler Chul-jong who at one time had blazed a trail on the pro circuit. After a knee injury, however, he sticks to the underground circuit, where an accomplished bowler stands to earn a lot of money through hustling and betting. His managing partner is Hee-jin (Lee Jung-hyun), who possesses a cool head for business, but who also is burdened by many thousands of dollars’ worth of debt to a thuggish rival named Toad. If she can’t pay him back soon, she will lose the lease on her late father’s beloved bowling alley.

The two of them work local alleys, taking advantage of naïve amateurs to rack up a certain amount of cash, but Chul-jong and Hee-jin remain far from reaching their monetary goal. Then one day, Chul-jong comes across Young-hoon (Lee David) bowling by himself in a run-down alley. Quite young and severely autistic, Young-hoon is nonetheless a natural genius at bowling. Chul-jong can’t believe what he’s seeing... and before long his eyes start seeing dollar signs.
Split is kinetic and dynamic in the way it is shot, with a real forward driving energy to every scene. It succeeds in making its bowling scenes and real-world confrontations feel urgent and exciting. But at its core it is a character study of three complicated people who don’t easily express their feelings. Each are facing hardship in their own way, but lack the self-awareness to begin addressing the root cause of their problems. The real drama of the film is about what will happen when these three characters get thrown together by circumstance.

It’s exciting to see a well-established, long-term actor turn in a performance that makes you see him in a new light. Such is the case with Yoo Ji-tae, who since debuting as a romantic lead and then establishing himself as the tall young villain in Oldboy, has taken on a wide spectrum of roles. There is a convincing edge to his character here, and a self-assurance to his performance that is exciting. Singer/actress Lee Jung-hyun too is known for the intensity she brings to her roles, as in her memorable performance in Kang Yi-kwan’s Juvenile Delinquent. In Split, it’s not just that she plays her role well, but that she complements the other actors so well and brings each one of her scenes to life. And Lee David, who at a young age already has an impressive resume in works like Poetry and Pluto, inhabits his autistic character with a naturalism that avoids sentimentality and makes his character arc feel convincing.

Director Choi Kook-hee walks a fine line in this work, given that at first glance the film’s harder and softer edges all seem to contradict each other. A wrong step could have easily caused the dramatic progression to fall apart, or to make the film to feel fake or unconvincing. But somehow he manages to hold everything together, with a consistency that unusual in established, let alone first-time directors. Split was quite highly rated by ordinary viewers, even though its box office score may have fallen short of expectations (it had the ill fortune to be released just as massive street demonstrations against the president were spreading in Korea). But the film bodes well for Choi Kook-hee’s future.
Darcy Paquet
Film director: 
Choi Kook-hee
Running time: 


  • Split 00
  • Split 01