Seemingly on a whim, twenty-five-year old Freddie (Park) returns to her native South Korea as a stranger. Adopted by a couple in France as an infant, Freddie doesn’t know the city, language, or culture. She befriends a sweet hotel clerk (Han), and together they explore the town. Constantly in motion, Freddie visits the adoption center where she was placed, and reaches out to her birth parents, a bold move that will affect her profoundly.
Chou’s nuanced drama takes flight largely on the energy and spirit of star Park Ji-Min, who’s miraculous in the central role. By no means wholly sympathetic, her Freddie is a wild, restless creature, unsure of who she is even before arriving in Korea. This latest adventure only adds to her dislocation, but it’s clear she’s searching for something. Through several phases of her life over eight years, she experiments, and her identity subtly shifts. Oh Kwang-rok also excels playing Freddie’s natural father, still crippled with remorse for giving up his daughter. Writer/director Chou based his film on the experience of a close friend, so “Return” feels achingly personal — and that’s a good thing.