OAFF: Leave at Door, Bell X (2022)

Jiho (Ji Woo) buys an expensive second-hand electric bike in order to work as a bicycle courier. The job, however, proves more difficult that she thought: incorrect addresses, locked apartment entrances, pounding rain, and customer complaints all conspire to make her first day on the job a living hell. It is a clean set-up for a 20-minute short film, made in South Korea by director Lee Joo-young, and showcases a modern job in today’s gig economy. It seems a frustrating career to have.

On the surface, Leave at Door, Bell X is a comedy of frustrations, with each additional hurdle adding to Jiho’s growing sense of frustration and despair. It is well-paced in this regard, and wonderfully timed, and goes great length one challenge after another in building sympathy for Jiwoo’s likeable protagonist. With every cockup and disaster, our willingness for her to make it through she shift grows. The small scale of the crises make it easy for us to identify with them. That they clearly have an emotional effect on Jiwoo pushes the short from simple comedy to something a little more measured and dramatic.

There is a decent supporting cast helping the story along, whether Yeom Hye-ran as a frustrated noodle shop proprietor, or Ryu Kyung-soo as her reluctantly difficult customer. Everyone is easily identifiable, and while they may act structurally as antagonists they operate as characters like reasonable, immediately recognisable people.

There is a nice sense of place and location to be found here, which is appropriate for a film about couriers. Its modest scope is a large part of its appeal. Rather than form some extended social commentary or melodramatic saga like courier drama Beijing Bicycle, this is an adventure any one of us can imagine having. This a straightforward comic drama: it moves in, it entertains, and it swiftly resolves. It’s enjoyable stuff.

Leave at Door, Bell X screened at the 2023 Osaka Asian Film Festival. For more information click here.

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