This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Rattlebones’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Saw this again last night and it's really so masterful how it's built and paced. Also strange to see complaints about the digital photography on here when I felt like it suited the world so well. One of the best uses of digital is to go ultra dark, they really take advantage of that. Also, there's a real modernity that comes across with it. Maybe this is just my foreigner's perspective, but the modernity of Seoul, especially in the gleaming streets of Gangnam, really comes across well.
Because I already knew the plot, I was able to focus more on the three performances, and they really are incredible. Jong-so weary growth, and shy reticence work because of some incredible nuance in gesture and expression. The times he tries to break through his shell, revealing himself to Ben or his mother, he's ignored, which feels like its been consistently the case in his life. We trust his obsession with Haemi, because we know he hasn't had much access to love and intimacy before. We know this before he tells Ben as much, because he emanates loneliness.
Because emotionality is the bread and butter of an actor's trade, playing emotionally inexpressive characters can seem easy from a far. I'm of the opinion that it's actually the opposite. Emotionally reserved characters have less room for expression, and the challenges lie in making something distinct with those confines.
Ben is a pitch perfect in that regard. He lives with no fear, no scruples, but the freedom to pursue total hedonism. Like any hedonist, his pleasure threshold is constantly thickened, because he's always been given everything he's wanted.
Most of us have known a version of a Ben. The rich kid at your school who finds the world a bit dull, usually, but is never melancholic. Whose entitlement knows no bounds, who has never known the anxiety of familial scarcity. Who only seems truly amused at the expression of cruelty. Whose version of work comes through the family company, with all the privilege of a royal accession.
I was blown away when I heard that Haemi was Jeon Jong-seo's first role. She has a wonderful grace to her movement. We believe that she's trying to make a new life, a new her. That the people around who never really cared about her, and that this isn't really something she expects.
There's many wonderful little touches in this film. For example, in Jong-su's family home, almost all the pictures on the wall are of just his father, except for one that also contains a very young Jong-su.
I really hope this doesn't get remade in America