Young Adult Matters follows Sejin (Lee Yoo Mi), a rebellious and typically emotionless girl living with her younger sister who spends the majority of her time finding her way into trouble—whether this be cutting her wrists on Instagram live, sleeping with her principal’s son, or secretly hooking up with the popular girl who acts as her main bully. After finding out she’s pregnant, Sejin goes on a long, violent journey to secure money to get an abortion. Along the way she meets Juyeong (Ahn Heeyeon, also known as KPOP star Hani from EXID), a teen runaway that she instantly makes a connection with. The two girls run into Jaepil (Lee Hwan, also the director) and Sinji (Sin Haetbit), two boys who join the girls in their quest. Led by two strong performances from its leading actresses, Young Adult Matters is a compelling tale of identity, but one that suffers from its self-indulgence.
What makes Young Adult Matters work is the performances given by Yoo Mi and Hani. Both girls shine in these roles, and they bring a sense of realness to the connection that their characters build. Hani transitions beautifully from her previous work as a singer, and this being her first feature film deserves credit and praise. Their relationship is by far the most compelling, and drives the majority of the story. Though Sejin often seems sociopathic, the audience sees a different side to her when she’s with Juyeong, who is also troubled and searching for something that she can’t exactly pinpoint.
Though the brilliant performances given by the women in Young Adult Matters cannot be ignored, there are some glaring flaws to the story that drags it down. The first noticeable one of these flaws are the characters outside of Sejin and Juyeong, specifically the men. All of the male characters are, in some way, detestable—while this is used to show the cruelty of the world these girls live in, it gets to a point where it is grating and unbearable. The characters of Jaepil and Sinji don’t garner any sympathy from the audience, as their personalities and reasons for acting the way that they do are never explored in depth. Their characters fall flat, despite the efforts given by the actors, and when scenes shift focus onto them, it is repeatedly disappointing.
Wandering around the streets, Sejin, a pregnant teen, gets to know Juyeong and reunites with Jaepil and Sinji. The four musketeers go through a series of misfortunes, bumping into masochistic/sadistic characters and experiencing the brutality and cruelty of the world. Nevertheless, their naivety and pureness to endure through the hardships of life will stir complex emotions that will question your judgment.