The average disposable camera sold at any pharmacy or rundown photo lab contains twenty-seven unique exposures. With a simple wind and click format, there is no room for messing with miscellaneous ISO alterations or other advanced photography techniques. These disposable cameras are designed for amateurs — a device specially invented to create a lens into the world of the average consuming civilian. As everyone tends to say, a picture is worth a thousand words. In the case of the group of young adolescent school girls featured in the film Short Vacation, these disposables offer a unique escape. The disposables are a tactical reminder of who they once were, before they transition from middle school to the high-octane vapidness of post-secondary applications. If anything, Short Vacation prominently highlights a story about the power of camaraderie and the acceptance of fate.
In the beginning, a group of four young school girls are united to participate in a summer school assignment. The goal? To take twenty-seven photos that depict the end of the world. As the film’s humble setup consistently drags and often lacks a discernible focus, the film finally leads with the essential conflict of the titular trip at hand. An unintentional vacation of sorts, the four girls find themselves in an unpredictable whirlwind of events. A film that can be best described as a prominent vibe-piece throughout, Kwon Min-pyo and Seo Hansol perfectly mimics the structural form of conventional nonfiction filmmaking. Largely due in part to the film’s refreshing amount of intricate attention to realism in its fluid dialogue and relaxed blocking, the story slowly grows into a more natural reflection on the coming of age sub-genre.
The prompt given to the group of newfound friends is ironic in itself. With the original goal being a project dedicated to the depiction of the end of humanity — in actuality, it ends up becoming the start of adulthood for the girls. A fresh start, as the young women reflect and discuss their regret, perspectives on parenthood, and their personal stances on family ties. Where the film drags in its plodding semantics, there is still always a consistent beating heart and purpose to the scatter-shot conversations at hand. For example, the quality of their photos become sharper and more experienced, as the intimacy between the quartet gradually flourishes.
Structurally, Short Vacation’s length is slightly unjustified. A more mid-length approach would have been far more appropriate for what the narrative ends up tackling. But as a piece that ultimately unifies the relatable batch of characters into a reflective work on the meditation of friendship, the journey is more than worth taking. Everything is momentary and pensive in Short Vacation, but that’s precisely the point. Meaningless objects are infused with a simplistic metaphor to drive the film’s meaning home. A pair of shoes, railroad tracks, a dated calendar, an upside down train station sign, and the communion of heat shelters — all immortalised by the power of the static photograph.
Dir: Kwon Min-pyo & Seo Hansol
Cast: Seol Si-yeon, Bae Yeon-woo, Park So-jung, Han Song-hee
Country: South Korea
Runtime: 79 minutes
Short Vacation premiered at this year’s 71st Berlinale as part of the Generation K-Plus program. The film is currently seeking international distribution.