Hotel by the River

NR, 96 minutes


An aging poet, Younghwan (Ki Joobong), summons his two estranged sons (Kwon Haehyo and Yu Junsang) to a solitary hotel beside the Han River because he feels his death is near. While waiting for them to arrive, he meets two women (Kim Minhee and Song Seonmi) out walking in the new-fallen snow and is struck by their angelic beauty. But the women have come to the hotel to do some healing of their own. As Younghwan moves between the women and his bickering sons, he also moves between his two minds: one that walks on the street and the other that communes with the eternal.

Shooting in gauzy black-and-white with a strikingly untethered hand-held camera, South Korean master Hong Sangsoo interweaves the various dramas of his characters in a quiet, straightforward way. But small coincidences and privileged moments combine to create a powerful meditation on family and death, one of the most affecting films in Hong’s oeuvre. (2019, Sang-soo Hong, South Korea, Korean with English subtitles, 96 min, NR)

“Shot in wintry black-and-white, Hotel by the River folds Hong’s usual concerns into a structure that’s more complex than usual.” — Mark Jenkins, NPR

“A story of a poet, HOTEL BY THE RIVER comes to resemble a poetry collection itself, abounding in emotional currents and grace notes that are bracingly allowed to hang, free of reductive explication.” — Chuck Bowen, Slant Magazine

“HOTEL BY THE RIVER is one of Hong Sang-soo’s most mature and emotionally rich films, a black and white drama as intellectually rich as it is visually jaw-dropping.” — Joshua Brunsting, The CriterionCast

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