Hear the chants, hear the screams… Baseball is one of the most popular sports in South Korea. With an incredible atmosphere in the stadium during every game, baseball has become more than just a sport. Although what we see on the pitch is exciting, what happens behind closed doors is another story. The journey of becoming a player is arduous and often faced with lots of sacrifices. Not Out, written and directed by Lee Jung-gon, is not particularly based on a true story, but it surely shows how brutal and unforgiving the journey could become for those dreaming of playing the sport. 

Image © Courtesy of London East Asia Film Festival 

Gwang-ho (Jeong Jae-kwang: Vertigo) plays for a high school baseball team. He is determined, stubborn and bold. Knowing that he is good at baseball, he refuses to be trained by a professional team and arrogantly declines the offer; he tells his coach (Kim Hee-chang) that he will be drafted at his final game. But when the young student fails to be picked by any of the pro teams, Gwang-go decides to apply for colleges, including the one that his teammate sets his eyes on. 

Gwang-go pushes towards his goal of getting the money for the college by not only pressuring his father to sell his little restaurant, but also by selling fake petrol alongside his old school buddy, Min-chul (Lee Kyu-sung: Swing Kids). Min-chul somewhat understands Gwang-ho’s determination and desperation as he used to play baseball himself, but due to an injury, he dropped out. To Gwang-ho, on the other hand, baseball is the only thing he knows and wants. As a result, his desperation for money grows with each day, and he is pushed to make more dangerous decisions, including the one that involves robbing the illegal hub he works for. Yet again, the choices he makes backfire, causing serious damage…

Image © Courtesy of London East Asia Film Festival 

Lee Jung-gon’s Not Out has interesting storytelling, heart-rending dialogue and an outstanding lead performance by Jeong Jae-kwang. Flawless cinematography by Kim Young-kook and the score by Kim Ji-yeon is also something that one should pay attention to. Starting from the music itself, Kim Ji-yeon’s score is wholesome and speaks from the heart. Its simplicity achieves the desired effect in the film by playing on one’s emotions accordingly. 

Not Out is one of those baseball stories where the sport plays a big part, however, it also depicts the story of a young man with dreams, a man who, in the face of failure, becomes his own enemy. Jeong Jae-kwang is solid as a young Gwang-ho; the protagonist’s pain and the quest to achieve his dreams are inseparable, and they are portrayed in a fearless and exhilarating manner. Without a doubt, the actor channels all those emotions well.

Kim Young-kook’s cinematography is so much more than recording what happens on the big screen. Kim’s camera work supports the story that is being told through the actors beautifully; the angles and lighting are cleverly used to enhance the audience’s experience. With more intimate close-up shots, the expressions and emotions are more visible, which help the characters to engage in a direct and personal manner – the audience starts to lose visual information about the protagonist’s surroundings as his actions become more impactful.

Image © Courtesy of London East Asia Film Festival 

Not Out is saturated with anxieties, reflections, and fears of young people. It is also a portrait of passion for sport and the dreams of those who wish to play it. While Not Out may not be full of rising tensions, there is no denial that the film turned out to be a solid feature debut by Lee Jung-gon.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Written by Maggie Gogler

View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, arts and fashion, worldwide.

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