SDAFF 2023 presents Concrete Utopia

Mine! Mine! Mine!

Reviewed by: Alicia Glass
Published on: March 9, 2024 (URL is not
Available on: Movie Theaters
Content release date: 2023-12-15

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

After a massive earthquake in Seoul causes the destruction of the overcrowded apartment complexes, the last standing facility becomes a battleground for the beleaguered survivors.

So, here in real life, South Korea has been experiencing a housing crisis of their own – far too many people for nowhere near enough apartments, alleged corrupt housing lottery and business practices, and a general sense of every man for himself permeating it all. Which is exactly what the film explores, in the most heartbreaking ways possible. Into the worst of humanity breaking down we dive!

We begin, of course, with a massive earthquake hitting Seoul. Natural disasters are the absolute worst things to try and deal with, there’s no enemy to try and reason with, no person or group to try and bribe, there’s only catastrophe that strikes everyone and everything without mercy or pity. Only the strong, those who can provide some manner of valuable service, are left to try and pick up the pieces and keep the aftermath from falling into chaos!

Literally the only place left standing is a single building inside Hwang Gung Apartments, and of course, that’s where everyone begins flocking to. The residents of Hwang Gung, those that survived the initial disaster anyway, immediately hunker down and try to take stock, of people and necessary supplies, to wait for the rescue services they just know have to be coming. Right? They are coming, aren’t they?!

Well. Until then, we’re just going to have to batten down the hatches and reluctantly start turning away outsiders, despite the debilitating cold, lack of appropriate shelter, and shortages of food and drinkable water. The man with the most to hide including his name, deciding to call himself Yeong-tak (Lee Byung-hun) for the time being, uses his unique set of skills to get himself nominated as the interim resident leader of the Apartments. Our hapless civil servant Min-sung (Park Seo-joon) and his nurse wife Myeong-hwa (Park Bo-young) find themselves swept along with the sudden changes to their lives, and Ming-sung in particular finds himself reluctantly useful to Yeong-tak, becoming his security guard and eventual assistant. And Geum-ae (Kim Sun-young), president of the womens association of the Apartments, tries her best to give some organization to the chaos, despite overwhelming numbers and sheer human nature stacked against her.

So, what do we do when hordes of hungry, desperate people begin flocking to the only building left standing in the devastation that was Seoul? We’ve already established that there just isn’t enough of anything to go around, it’s all of the Apartment folk for themselves, and so after we’ve come together and taken a sort of census to ensure whom is really whom, we have to set up guards. And they have to be willing, and able, to deal out violence if necessary to the usurpers threatening their kingdom. Which is initially a problem for the purportedly civilized people of Hwang Gung Apartments, but breaks down rather quickly when the outsiders start dealing violence of their own. We also have to make at least one group of men willing to go outside the relative safety of Hwang Gung, to hunt for supplies and food, but also capable of defending their cache if need be.

While the guards and hunters are generally successful and the people of Hwang Gung are relatively unscathed, the survivors outside are banding together too, and confrontation is only a matter of time. Even inside the Apartment folk coalition things are beginning to break down, as lies and deceit bubble to the surface like impossible-to-hide poison, and internal tensions are sending everyone to their breaking point, even and perhaps especially, the man using the pseudonym Yeong-tak.

A story of both the best and the worst humanity has to offer in the face of absolute disaster, Concrete Utopia delivers a powerhouse showing that hits far too close to home!