For this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, there was a category of films purely dedicated to Korean filmmaking. One of the films highlighted in this category is Da Capo (2020), directed by Shim Chan-yang. In this story, Tae-il (Hong Isaac) goes to a country village to meet Jiwon (Jang Ha-eun), a girl he used to perform with in the past. Spending time with her and some of the students that she now teaches, Tae-il recalls his past love for music.
Many people have already made the comparisons between Da Capo and some other music-centred films such as School of Rock (2003) and Sing Street (2016). It is easy to see the inspirations for this film, yet I found that the narrative was not aiming to be a copy. Whilst the films previously mentioned very much focus on the present, Da Capo is a story that takes a look at the past. It has a sweetness to the narrative, with this sentimentality that lies between the characters and the relationship that is clear from the first few scenes.
Of course, it is not a music-based film without some music, and the songs in here are so wonderful. The songs within it are songs that would be played on Spotify without the link to the film, especially with the K-pop trend that has grown in the past few years. Not only that, but the film shows the progression of the songs and their creation, making the writing feel authentic. The progression helps the audience establish the characters’ abilities within song-writing and performance, and the performances themselves are done in a way that feels real. There are no fantasy musical sequences, no need for over-the-top staging or lip syncing. The simple production and letting the focus be on the song itself and the musicians being in the moment helps set the tone for the film.
It is not only the story itself that is sweet, but the filmmaking itself that helps establish the soft tones of the story. The production is simple but adds charm on both the interior and the exterior. Instead of having a fancy studio for students to rehearse in, it instead is a single acoustic room, giving space for the camera to see everything and making for less unnecessary cuts and hard splices. The beautiful backdrop of the beach adds to the peaceful atmosphere that runs throughout the film, making this such an easy watch.
There are two main storylines with this film, and it is actually the subplot that is the more engaging of the two. Whilst Tae-il is visiting Jiwon, he has some time to watch her students perform and grow as musicians. Watching Tae-il interact with the students, watching the creative process between them when developing some songs, as well as seeing the students grow in confidence and where they end off, is incredibly rewarding and is handled extremely well. In contrast, the main storyline of Tae-il and Jiwon’s relationship does lose momentum throughout the story. For what is otherwise such a strong script, the film would have benefitted from having an extra twenty minutes to further expand on this relationship, given the clear impact it has on the narrative.
This is a film that is incredibly easy to recommend. If you are someone that loves films such as Sing Street, this is another watch to add onto your list for sure. The story is incredibly charming, the atmosphere is cosy, and the songs will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. If there is one thing we should all know by now, is that Korea is the place to go for good quality cinema.