Hotel by the River | Chicago Reader

Hotel by the River

An aging poet, enjoying an extended stay at the title location, calls on his two grown sons to visit him after he has a premonition he’s going to die; meanwhile, another guest at the hotel receives a visit from her best friend, who promises to help her get over a recent breakup with her married lover. Hong Sang-soo’s second film of 2018 (after Grass) begins as one of the South Korean writer-director’s calmest and loveliest works, as Hong relaxedly introduces the characters and observes them quietly passing time together, but there are hints of disquiet beneath the surface. Shooting handheld for the first time, Hong injects a sense of instability into the pleasant interactions, and the black-and-white cinematography (like that of his 2017 feature The Day After) conjures up an air of stinging loneliness. When the characters get drunk and confess their true feelings—as they inevitably do in Hong’s films—you may not be surprised to learn how unhappy they are. In Korean with subtitles.

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