DaisyBell’s review published on Letterboxd:
Just because a film is long does not mean that it is inherently good. I am really shocked by A Brighter Summer Day and its overwhelming renown and praise, as this is hardly a special film, and a rather insufferable watch throughout most of its runtime. With social commentary and moralistic quandaries galore, and characters with capricious, angsty, and idealistic vibes, the film never quite hits the mark, and instead misses it by quite a long distance. While the former two lack any sort of potency, the latter lack any sort of reciprocal interest and intrigue from the viewer, causing all their asinine and foolish behaviors to present itself as weak and egregiously obnoxious. A Brighter Summer Day, from its very beginnings, fails to garner any emotional investment, and does not try to incentivize any sort of reciprocal care from the viewer. So instead, it runs its entire length reeling from its failure to provide interest in the characters or narrative, and causes all the foolish decisions to go without care from the viewer, and instead with vexation and distaste.
The degeneration of youth is a whole grand cascade in the film, that could have entirely been prevented and stopped; in addition, the whole societal divide between young generation and old is really tiring. I really despise these coming-of-age "look how terrible our youth are" and "look how terrible our society is" flicks—they meander about spouting malevolence and foolish nonsense which provides no good or fruitful results. They ask the viewer to care and relate to absolutely miserable people, with no good reason except that it’s "our obligation". They provide nothing to think about and nothing to gain; and I am supposed to like and enjoy them??
A Brighter Summer Day is an incredibly disappointing film. Not only are the plot and characters uninteresting and unintriguing, they prove to be enervating and highly irksome. The social commentary is the only thing that keeps this film remotely worth talking about, but even then, it's scarcely worth it. Some nice cinematography here and there, but there's not much to praise this film for. I scarcely feel this way, but I almost believe I wasted 4 hours of my life on this. All in all, A Brighter Summer Day was a pretty terrible film.