HKAFF: Our Sunhi 我們的善熙 (2013) – South Korea

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 8th November 2013

Directed by: 洪尚秀 Hong Sang-soo
Starring: 鄭有美 Jung Yu-mi, 鄭在詠 Jung Jae-young, 金相中 Kim Sang-joong, 李善均 Lee Sun-kyun

Reviewed at 10th Hong Kong Asian Film Festival 2013

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My feelings towards filmmaker Hang Sang-soo has so far been mixed. To be honest, I only discovered director Hang at 2013 Hong Kong International Film Festival, where I was in infuriated with his “Nobody’s Daughter Haewon” and equally concerned with the disappointing “In Another Country“. Luckily, his latest exploration of women, “Our Sunhi” is far more like “Haewon” than “Country”. For some reason, Hang’s films are very similar to Woody Allen’s style. In that the offhand and witty dialogue are a central focus. Not to mention the repetition of the same classical theme song throughout provides more than a few laughs whenever it is played over and over again. Hang uses a unique camera work style where he likes let the scenes and characters to play out themselves, with a wide shot in the beginning, before an obvious closing in as the topic of interest between the characters intensify. In essence, “Our Sunhi” may not break any grounds and most likely not Hang’s best work, but it remains a highly enjoyable film in its own particular style.

Jung Yu-mi plays Hang’s muse in this film and despite everyone being totally in love with her, her looks are quite frankly ordinary and borderline attractive to say the least. However Jung Yu-mi is magnetic whenever on-screen as there is something about her flawed and indecisive female character that makes the audience want to know more about her. However, by the end of the film, it is easy for the audience to realize a fact, we still know nothing about her, including her motivations to cultivate and surround herself with interlinked guys. In fact, Jung Yu-mi seems to be the only character to be without morals and constantly seen to be self-fish and self centered. Lee Sun-kyun plays her love sicken former boyfriend, whose inability to let go of Jung Yu-mi is both comedic and frustrating for the audience. While we laugh at him, we all know at some point in our lives, we were exactly like that. Jung Jae-young plays the wise old friend whose purpose in the movie is to provide everyone with the same advice over and over again. If you dig deep and keep digging, until you reach your limits, then you will truly understand yourself. Essentially, knowing what you can’t do, leads to a true understanding of oneself. As for the professor, while a true academic, is a total failure when coming to the idea or notion of love. His underlying love for his student provides the film with one of its best moments, especially when he revises the reference letter into essentially a love letter.

All in all, “Our Sunhi” is probably not an upgrade of “Nobody Daughter’s Haewon”, but director Hang Sang-soo is fast becoming the Korean’s Woody Allen prologue. His understanding of women is both deep, insightful and at times with love and hate. Witty dialogue, classic soundtrack, with a focus on characters and simple camera work is fast becoming Hang’s personally style. As with most of Hang’s films, the focus on random and meeting people by chance and everything that happens after it remains very much his core concern. The funny thing about his films is that most of the characters we will either have come across in our lives in one way or another. I enjoyed “Our Sunhi” for its duration, but in terms of lingering afterthoughts, it could have been more substantial. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 7.5/10

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