It’s difficult to categorize Microhabitat as a comedy. If I had to, I would call it a sad comedy, not because I found it depressing but because its humor is rather melancholic. It’s not supposed to make you laugh, but smile as you recognize its honesty and even its tragedy. The movie rests completely on young Miso (Lee “Esom” Som), a free spirit with a tight budget. She does housekeeping for a handful of clients and lives in a very small place. Her vices are smoking and drinking whiskey.
Curiously, these two vices are the very traits she often uses to connect with people. Miso, as you will soon learn, can no longer make ends meet once the price of her cigarettes go up. And so, she must choose. The obvious answer for her is to stop paying rent and find a place to crash relying on her old friends and former band members.
Before you think it, Miso is not smooching off anybody. Each of her friends start as people we easily could consider caricatures or stereotypes but often have a lot more layers than we can see at first look. They are also each facing their own hardships. The price of everything going up affects everyone in different levels.
Miso seems to genuinely concerned with all of her friends which begs the question, is anybody concerned with her? Her boyfriend Hansol (Ahn Jae-Hong) seems to be concerned, but he’s also got his own problems. They meet sparingly, to chat and to smoke and hopefully find a way to pay their debts. As much as they are both hoping to see each other, things keep driving them apart.
I think sad comedies about urban life don’t get any better than Microhabitat. Director Jeon Go-woon has deliver a slice-of-life vehicle aimed at the heart. Miso is the heart of this film, she wants to have her life in her own terms and nobody else’s but she also honestly cares for her friends’ lives. Her vices of smoking and drinking become almost adorable as she navigates homelessness in a city where everyone is feeling the economical situation.
Highly recommended for people who love a sad comedy, but also recommended for anybody willing to see something new. South Korean comedies have a way to add social commentary in the background and the foreground without forgetting to make you laugh now and then. It’s also a nostalgic trip for everyone that grew up often having to sacrifice a little or everything of who they were or what they loved to do seeking a better future. In short, that’s everyone.
That will do.