Nick’s review published on Letterboxd:
I have seen all of Lee Chang-dong’s films except for his first one, and I’d say that this is probably the weakest one I’ve seen from him so far. But that’s saying a lot because this film is certainly an achievement in many ways, and it’s probably one of the best film I’ve seen in 2018.
There was still a part of me that left feeling disappointed with the film because it felt like the material wasn’t as emotionally and socially challenging as Lee’s other work. I’m pretty sure all of his other films have left me in tears, or at least on the verge of tears at some point. But Burning just seems to be a simple story about modern youth and loneliness with a small element of mystery and crime and fairly straightforward characters with mostly restrained emotions.
There are certainly some emotional moments throughout, and there are some clear issues being explored about social identity and class conflict, but the film never quite digs deep enough to reach the same gut-wrenching emotional and moral complexity I have come to expect from a Lee Chang-dong film.
With that said, this film is masterfully crafted with beautiful cinematography, great writing and amazing performances. If the filmmaker behind Burning had not already made some of the best films I’d ever seen, I probably would have had a much more positive response to it. I would still recommend seeing this one if you get the chance, but I would suggest watching Lee Chang-dong’s other work even more.