In director Andrew Ahn’s assured and atmospheric debut feature, “Spa Night,” is an uncommon coming-of-age-story with real risks. Handsome and athletic Korean-American teenager David Cho (Joe Seo, who won the Special Jury Award at this year’s Sundance for his quietly powerful performance) is on the brink of manhood, dealing with his ethnic and sexual identities. A dutiful son, he’s struggling with what he can to please his loving immigrant parents, who have endlessly sacrificed for him, and what he must do to be true to himself.
After his family’s small restaurant closes, David secretly gets a part-time job–his parents want him to concentrate on studying for the SATs–in an all-male spa. The film, gorgeously photographed in wide screen, transforms the rooms of steam and water into a near dream world, removed from David’s reality, where he begins to accept his desire.
“Spa Night” opens today at Metrograph for a one-week run. Andrew Ahn and Joe Seo will be in attendance at this evening’s 7:00pm screening, on Saturday, August 20 at 7:30 pm and 9:45 pm, and on Sunday, August 21 at 3:00 pm and 5:15 pm. The film will open in Los Angeles on Friday, August 26, with a nationwide rollout to follow.