Pushing fact and fiction to the point where one is unsure just what is scripted and what, for lack of a better word, is real, Malene Choi’s The Return offers a playful, affecting and at times disorienting portrait of group of thirtysomethings who have quite literally been disoriented. Inspired by elements from the filmmaker’s own life and the lives of those she puts on screen, this hybrid feature follows two Danish-South Korean adoptees as they return to their birth country in search of their respective biological parents, and could prove to be a significant international breakthrough for the trained documentarian.
The film follows Danes Karoline (Karoline Sofie Lee) and Thomas (Thomas Hwan) as they trek through Seoul and its neighbouring cities looking to better understand their thorny cultural heritage. While the fictive construct is never in doubt […] Choi often presents the action onscreen with documentarian remove, while the camera’s subjects speak so loosely and naturally that it often seems impossible to think any of their speech as being pre-ordained.
Choi introduces real figures […] and allows them to expand and espouse as if in a doc. Only instead of doing so directly to camera, they do so to protagonist Karoline in a seemingly flowing conversation. […] The Return occasionally takes on a discursive, digressive air reminiscent of early Linklater.
Ben Croll, Screen Daily