Hye-Sung Oh’s review published on Letterboxd:
Finally. I've been waiting so long to watch this film since Lee Chang Dong is one of my favorite directors. After hearing so much praise, Burning became one of my most anticipated films of 2018. I wanted to watch it sooner but no theaters near me were playing the film so I had no choice but to wait for it to come out on digital, which it got released yesterday.
Burning is Lee's first take on the mystery/thriller genre but still is beautifully done in his unique way that felt familiar because of the similar subjects the film tackles much like his previous films such as human conditions, struggles, unemployment, unclearness, and depression in a Korean trope kind of way. We spend a lot of time with Jong-su who wants to become a writer but doesn't know what to write about. He resembles the young Korean people in modern society, how they know what they want to pursue but have many leisure time and other personal issues which results to them becoming more lazy and unmotivated so their futures become unclear. Jong-su is the type of person that doesn't work hard which leads him ignorantly questioning as to why there are so many young "Great Gatsbys" living in his country.
We get introduced to Hae-mi who used to know Jong-su when they were kids. They catch up and start developing a strange relationship.
She hungers for happiness and freedom, and I can't help but think she's deeply depressed, lonely and wants to be loved. Ben gets introduced through Hae-mi and that's when the film starts to become more tense and things start changing. Ben is a person that Jong-su ever wanted to be. He's young, rich, and is always looking to have fun. They have complete opposite lifestyles, Ben obviously having the better one. Not only that, Hae-mi is fond of Ben which leads to jealousy on Jong-su's part and he starts developing hatred towards Ben that keeps getting deeper and deeper. Hae-mi and Jong-su are characters that are struggling daily and are seeking for a better life. Ben however is this mysterious being that seems to have everything yet has a captivating persona that attracts people like Jong-su and Hae-mi.
Burning takes its time getting into the secrecy and the mystery surrounding the three main characters but when it happens, it felt so subtle and not out of place that the film becomes disturbing and troubling. What I like about Burning is that no scene felt drawn out. There is not one dramatic scene in the film which made the film even more realistic and not forced.
After a 7 year hiatus from Lee Chang Dong, Burning was definitely worth the wait. But seriously, please make more films.