Burning ★★★★★

I still need to up my foreign film game, and this movie further supported that notion for myself, especially with Korean cinema.

I'd never heard much of this film outside of Steven Yeun's involvement in this, as I'm sure is the same for many other viewers. Directed by Lee Chang-dong with a script co-written by him and Oh Jung-mi, this film immersed me into a captive state of suspense and discomfort.

It revolves around protagonist Lee Jong-su who encounters his childhood friend Shin Hae-mi. and later a wealthy man named Ben whom she met in Nairobi. The film is a character study of all three of these people, all with striking contrasting personalities.

Jong-su is attracted to Hae-mi in a rather creepy manner, and finds himself fighting for her attention against Ben, who is charming but carries a suspicious air with him. Besides the beautiful cinematography and gripping story, Steven Yeun's performance as Ben was the highlight of the movie for me. He captured every scene he was in for me, and there wasn't a moment where I felt something wouldn't go wrong whenever he was on screen.

There's a scene right after Jong-su meets Ben where the three are in a restaurant (this was shown in the trailer) in which Ben is discussing his lack of experiencing happiness, right before casually yawning. As pretentious as this may already sound, watching it in the context of the movie immediately set off fire alarms for me regarding Ben's secretive and possibly dangerous nature. That scene is only one of the many moments where Jong-su's self-doubt and envy clashes with the easiness with which Ben presents himself but hints at an underlying venom.

Outside of the film's 2 and a half hour length, there's no complaints coming from me for this. Though this movie is clearly one of the more inaccessible movies out there in terms of broad appeal, I recommend it to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers, great directing, and ambiguous characters.

It's available on Netflix too, so there ya go.

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