With the lifting of global travel restrictions, it seems like more and more people are pursuing international travel. Alongside the exhilaration and enthusiasm that comes along with traveling abroad, there is also a sense of anxiety and unease that something could go wrong while venturing beyond familiar surroundings. It is this fear that director Giovanni Fumu is able to tap into with his debut film Abroad.

The story follows Taemin (Jang Seong-beom), a Korean man who is traveling to Minnesota with his girlfriend Minji (Lim Youngjoo). Their goal is to see the northern lights but from the very beginning there are problems. From minor setbacks like flight delays, air sickness, and transportation hiccups at the airport, Taemin, who struggles with English, relies heavily on Minji to navigate them through these complications. However, their trip takes a much darker turn when they reach their isolated cabin in the outskirts of Minnesota, and Minji mysteriously disappears. As the police suspect Taemin, audiences are taken on an intense quest to find his missing girlfriend.

Abroad’s strongest aspect lies in its exploration of the fear and vulnerability associated with traveling abroad where language barriers create a sense of alienation. The story cleverly establishes the couple's initial struggles, pacified by Minji's English proficiency. Yet, beneath the surface, Taemin's discomfort hints at the mounting tension that later explodes when Minji's disappearance forces him to navigate dangerous territory alone. Fumu skillfully amplifies the stakes, keeping viewers guessing as Taemin unravels the mystery of Minji’s disappearance.

Throughout many aspects of the film's setting and story telling there is a sense of authenticity. As a co-writer of the script, director Giovanni Fumu, an Italian native currently living and working in the United States, brings to life instances of prejudice that resonate with unfortunate truth. Furthermore, Jang Sung-bum, the Korean actor portraying Taemin, embodies the character's limited English proficiency and in fact faced similar negative situations during the film's on-location shooting in Minnesota.

At first glance, Abroad may present story beats that seem confusing, but these apparent flaws gradually make sense as the film unravels, inviting audiences to revisit it for a deeper understanding. However, the catch-22 lies in the fact that as the mystery is solved, the initial tension could be less prevalent and impactful. Nonetheless, Abroad offers an exciting experience, as evidenced by the fact that it won the Audience Award in the Korean Fantastic Category at the 2023 BIFAN Festival.

Overall Abroad feels like a highly accessible film for international audiences, thanks in part to its large supporting English cast. Taemin is a character that is easy to empathize with and the problems he faces seem to strike a relatable chord. The mystery is one that invites rewatches and even initial viewings are sure to be a ton of fun.