Burning ★★★★

Lee Chang-dong’s critically-acclaimed psychological thriller in which Jong-su’s former neighbour introduces him to a man with a mysterious hobby. In Korean with English subtitles.

Adapted from the short story Barn Burning by Haruki Murakami, the movie concerns Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), a freelance farm worker, who runs into his previous neighbour, Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo). She requests him to take care of her cat while she is absent in Kenya.

After she comes back, Hae-mi presents Jong-su to Ben (Steven Yeun). One day, Ben goes to see Jong-su with Hae-mi and acknowledges to having a bizarre clandestine interest.

Yoo Ah-in gives a very good performance in his role as Jong-su, the part-time ranch employee who is looking after a cat and is then presented to someone who might not be as he seems.

Elsewhere, there are fine performances to be had from Jeon Jong-seo and Steven Yeun in their respective roles as Hae-mi and Ben. Hae-mi is Jong-su’s neighbour who presents him to Ben after she returns from Kenya, while Ben is the man who Jong-su believes something is not right with him.

The direction from Chang-dong is very good because he allows the facial expressions to be seen to a strong effect throughout, while also keeping a mixed atmosphere happening as well and the script is written to a decent standard by the director and Oh Jung-mi as they make the movie good to follow.

The camera stands out best in terms of the technical aspects, because it makes good use of the locations and also captures the tense and dramatic moments well, which get the edge-of-the-seat status.

This film was selected as the South Korean entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, but it was not accepted as a nominee.

However, it did become the first film from South Korea to make the considered shortlist. This meant the Academy took a significant interest in South Korea films, which paved the way for the history-making black comedy thriller Parasite a year later.

The only criticism I have is that the pace is a little slow at times, so maybe the duration possibly didn’t need to be as long as it was.

Overall, despite the pacing and little too long duration, Burning is a very decent South Korean drama, due to the very good performances, direction, script and mixed atmosphere.

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