Director Shin Su-Won’s second feature film examines the dangerous obsession exam results can manifest in South Korean high-school students. It’s a stark, unapologetic observation of where those obsessions can lead to, and who they effect. However, Pluto doesn’t delve far enough into the reasoning, and instead focuses on the repercussions, losing an integral human focus in the process.
June is an exchange student who finds himself in a suddenly highly demanding and competitive elite school environment. Shocked at how far behind he is in his studies compared to his pupils, June begs to be initiated into a sinister and cultish group of students who command the top ten positions of exam results. Yet the increasingly deadly and dangerous missions they give June push him to the limits, until they culminate in devastating consequences.
The performances of the young cast is assured and affecting. David Lee as June has a soft sensitivity that works as it is slowly destroyed by factors in and out of his control. Sung Joon does well as student leader/mistaken baddie Yoo-Jin, while Kim Kwon is excellent as actual baddie Myung-Ho.
The problem with Pluto is its skewed focus on the repercussions of this result obsession, rather than an exploration of why it exists. We only get a distant sense of the massive pressures these students must face. What we’re left with is an effective thriller, but one that doesn’t feel entirely justified in its execution. The human element isn’t truly touched upon, and so we are somewhat alienated from Pluto’s subjects.
Still, this film makes for compelling enough viewing and should at least compel some discussion over the pressures faced by students to succeed in a results-driven world. In that way, Pluto succeeds in its objective.
Pluto is released nationwide on 6th June 2014.
Watch the trailer for Pluto here: