Review by Jamie M MacDonald

Min-Sung (Park Seo-Joo) and his wife Myung-Hwa (Park Bo-young) awake one morning, to find that Seoul has been destroyed by a massive earthquake, but for some reason their apartment  block still stands in amongst the destruction.  Pretty soon survivors from the outside seeking shelter, food and water descend upon the last block standing. Only thing is do the residents have enough to look after themselves plus these outsiders?  Now the residents have to make the choice, they will have to rebuild their beloved Hwang Gung Apartments, and adapt to their new way of life. This means setting up rules that they must follow, with the help of their newly appointed Delegate Yeong-Tak (Lee Byung-Hun) the residents set about their new lives, but is their room for non-residents in their Apartments, in their new way of life, in their Utopia?

Both Park Seeo-Joo and Park Bo Young are pivotal to the flow of Concrete Utopia, the ups and downs of their relationship as they adapt to this new way of life, is what gives the film it`s energy. Also, Park Seo Joo`s Ming Sung is very impressionable to what`s going on around him, and under the new building regime he wants to impress, the more he does the more rations for him and his wife. Park Bo-Young`s Myung-Hwa is just wanting to do what`s right by everyone, and finds the change in her husband not a good one. The Delegate played by one of my all-time favourite actors Lee Byung-Hun (A Bittersweet Life) starts off with good intentions but soon the line is blurred for him as Tyrant and doing what`s good for the sake of the building and its occupants. All the acting is top notch in the film, but for me these three are the heart of the film. Usually I`ll say who stands out in a film for me, with this film all three of these actors did. You never know what has happened to cause the earthquake, how far the damage goes; this film is all about how us humans act. In one scene when the residents are deciding the special measure to send people to their death in the cold. One person says they are mainly from Dream House, wasn`t that long ago they were looking down on us all with their money. This is the standout scene for me and tells from when it happens how the film will play out.

Written by Jeong Seung-o and Um Tae-Hwa plus directed by Um Tae-Hwa the film flows so well, the way it is structured I think you only see in Korean cinema, as it strips back the layers as the film goes on to reveal more about a character or a situation, so masterfully done here with this film. I think the visual effects are seamless as the survivors venture more and more into the rubble of the Seoul to hunt for water and food.  I thoroughly recommend Concrete Utopia; it is most definitely up there in 2024 films of the year! A wonderful delve into the human psyche, in the way only Korean cinema can do. 

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