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Fourth Place ("4 deung")

Canadian Premiere
  • South Korea
  • 2015
  • 119 mins
  • DCP
  • Korean
  • English (subtitles)
Official Selection: Busan International Film Festival 2015, Udine Far East Film Festival 2016, New York Asian Film Festival 2016

“Poetic and engrossing... riveting, emotionally charged” - Maggie Lee, VARIETY

“[A] masterpiece” - Grady Hendrix, FILM COMMENT

Fourth Place from Festival Fantasia on Vimeo.

While he practices swimming with fervent passion and undeniable talent, 11-year-old Jun-ho always comes in fourth in official competitions. Even though he dreams of one day competing in the Olympics, he’s doesn’t necessarily want to win at all costs. The same can’t be said, however, of his mother, Jeong-ae. She’s obsessed with her son’s athletic performance and heaps all her ambitions for him on the victories that never come. Jeong-ae hires as his personal trainer Gwang-su, a burned-out former swimming star who ended his career under shady circumstances. He has but one stipulation: the boy’s parents can never attend the training sessions. Jun-ho’s improvement during competition can quickly be noticed, but so can the increasing number of bruises appearing on his body, a fact that starts to worry the little family...

In this Olympic year, the shattering sport drama FOURTH PLACE follows titles like HAN GONG-JU, BREATHLESS and BLEAK NIGHT in carrying the torch for independent Korean cinema at Fantasia! Veteran director and co-writer Jung Ji-woo (HAPPY END) plunges us into the sometimes troubled waters of amateur sports to illustrate the different facets of the violence cycle. As both verbal and physical abuses abound, often with the silent complicity of passive bystanders, Jung paints remarkably nuanced portraits of characters who reluctantly exist in a genuinely violent culture, all while avoiding moral judgement. Despite dealing with an inherently difficult subject, FOURTH PLACE manages to keep a surprisingly luminous tone, a feat greatly attributed to its grippingly beautiful underwater sequences as well as the heartwarming innocence of Jun-ho, perfectly portrayed by young Yoo Jae-sang. Carving its place among sports dramas filled with hope despite dealing with delicate social realities, like CRYING FIST, FOURTH PLACE deserves the top spot at the podium.

— Nicolas Archambault