(Movie Review) ‘Dauren’s Wedding’: a serene tale of youths pursuing their dreams

May 29, 2024

“Dauren’s Wedding” invites viewers into a serene world, where the gentle pursuit of dreams by young protagonists unfolds against a backdrop of tranquility and subtle humor, devoid of jarring twists or tumultuous upheavals.

Predominantly shot in Kazakhstan, the film centers around Seung-ju (Lee Ju-seung), a young, ambitious assistant film director aspiring to make his directorial debut. Working at a small production company, he is assigned to film a documentary about a wedding ceremony in Kazakhstan.

Shortly after Seung-ju and cinematographer Young-tae (Gu Sung-hwan) land in the country, however, they encounter an unforeseen event that derails their original filming plan.

Under enormous pressure from Seoul to accomplish the task, they decide to stage a mock wedding, following the suggestion of a Koryoin they encounter, a descendant of Koreans who migrated to the Russian Far East following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

A poster for "Dauren's Wedding" is shown in this photo provided by Triple Pictures on May 29, 2024. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
A poster for “Dauren’s Wedding” is shown in this photo provided by Triple Pictures on May 29, 2024. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Initially hesitant, Seung-ju eventually agrees to the plan, reasoning that if the villagers believe the wedding to be real, then it is not truly fake.

They ask a local girl named Adina, whom they happen to help and befriend there, to appear in the documentary as the bride, while Seung-ju volunteers to play the groom.

Upon the announcement of their wedding, Seung-ju is moved by the genuine congratulations offered by unsuspecting, innocent villagers. The participation of real villagers among the cast helps enhance the film’s authenticity.

As the two get to know each other, a hint of tension surfaces in the otherwise tranquil movie when Seung-ju encourages Adina to step out of her comfort zone and pursue her dreams upon noticing photos of Seoul adorning her room. Offended by his suggestion, Adina abruptly reacts.

The movie marks director Im Chan-ik’s return to the screen after a two-year hiatus. He is best known for the comedy-action film “Officer of the Year” (2011), starring Park Joong-hoon and Lee Sun-kyun. The film earned Im the Best New Director award in the film category at the Baeksang Arts Awards in 2012.

The director has said he found inspiration for “Dauren’s Wedding” during his two-month stay in Uzbekistan in 2005, working on the romantic comedy “Wedding Campaign” as part of the production team. Deeply struck by the vast plains of Central Asia and the presence of Korean descendants in the region, he had longed to film a movie there.

And he seized an opportunity by winning a competition held by the Korean Film Academy, aimed at supporting a movie shot in Asian countries. This win covered the production cost of approximately US$330,000.

The film’s budget constraints somewhat hinder its ability to deliver a more cohesive narrative and to depict an impactful hunting sequence featuring a charging wild boar. Additionally, the 83-minute running time seems insufficient to fully explore a more compelling storyline.

The tense interactions between Seung-ju and Adina, as well as their sudden encounter in Busan, also seem to lack a well-established narrative buildup between the two characters.

But it nonetheless portrays a journey where young individuals overcome personal challenges and pursue their dreams. The inclusion of beautiful and tranquil scenery adds to the film’s allure, serving as a bonus for moviegoers.

“Dauren’s Wedding” is set to hit local theaters on June 12.