In the opening moments of Um Tae-hwa’s riveting new disaster epic, an earthquake renders much of Seoul a smouldering ruin. But as survivors begin efforts to restore order, it seems the real calamity has only just begun.

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Gala Presentations

Concrete Utopia

Um Tae-hwa

An earthquake renders much of Seoul a smouldering ruin in the opening minutes of this riveting post-apocalyptic epic from director Um Tae-hwa (Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned). But as survivors begin efforts to restore order, it seems the real calamity has only just begun.

From their balcony at the Hwang Gung apartment complex, Min-seong (Parasite’s Park Seo-jun) and Myeong-hwa (Park Bo-young) look out on nothing but corpses and rubble. It seems a miracle their building remains standing when all the others are destroyed. A stranger and her small child soon arrive at Min-seong and Myeong-hwa’s door begging to be let in, followed by dozens of others from the surrounding area desperately seeking food and shelter. As days pass and no rescue teams turn up, the tenants assemble, survey their limited resources, and vote to evict the “outsiders.” When Yeong-tak (I Saw the Devil’s Lee Byung-hun), the tenants’ elected leader, announces that the outsiders must leave Hwang Gung, all hell breaks loose. From this point on, tenants must be prepared to protect their property by any means necessary.

Not unlike his fellow countryman Bong Joon-ho, Um brilliantly fuses wry social critique with spectacular genre storytelling. Based on the second part of Kim Sung-nyung’s Cheerful Outcast webtoon, Concrete Utopia is a sobering parable, following its characters’ gradual descent into ruthless tribalism in a way that eerily mirrors so many contemporary global events. Only when all hope is lost do we glimpse the possibility of generosity, and some much-needed self-determination.

Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival

Content advisory: violence, frightening scenes

Screenings

Sat Sep 09

TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Press
8:30am
Sun Sep 10

Roy Thomson Hall

Premium
5:00pm
Mon Sep 11

Scotiabank 1

Regular
10:50am
Fri Sep 15

Scotiabank 14

Press
8:45am
Fri Sep 15

TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Regular
9:00pm
Sat Sep 16

TIFF Bell Lightbox 3

Regular
8:30pm