Saturday, July 08, 2017

[Movie Review] The Beauty Inside


This was probably one of the most bizarre and yet endearing movies I have seen lately. The premise is so improbable I had my doubts before starting it, but if I can watch a movie about giant lizards, I can watch a movie about the power of love, right? Any love, or maybe other way round - a love transcending gender, age, race. Love is love, as shown in this nice, heartwarming parable of a movie.

Someone said only narrow-minded people would like this movie. Well, I never had feeling my mind is broad so I guess that is why I liked it. Will I remember it till my dying day? Probably not. Was this premise done before? Yes it was! Did this movie shake the film industry? I bet it didn't. But why all movies have to be "groundbreaking" and "edgy"? This is the kind of condescending attitude that's so widespread among the homegrown critics. Sometimes a usual, good old-fashioned plot can be just what the doctor prescribed.

The premise was done in few other movies, but I only had one book in mind while reading this - Ursula Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness. Our protagonist, Kim Woojin* wakes up one day and sees in the mirror a face of the middle-aged man. Next day - another person, and another and so on for the last 12 years. His mother is the only person who knows about this condition and we learn by the end of the movie that it was Woojin's father who was touched by the same affliction.

Apart for his mother and a friend, Sang Baek, no one knows about Woojin's special circumstances. So he starts making furniture - a custom made, expensive wood furniture and he's successful. And you know, if you sometimes look good, a one night stand might not be the problem, as long as you leave early enough before anyone wakes up and see you as, say - a grandma.

The trouble starts when you fall in love. There is a book by David Levithan - Every Day that has a very similar concept but here Woojin doesn't travel between bodies of his friends and random people, he still remains essentially the same, only his outside, physical form changes. He's like a shapeshifter that changes into no one in particular, because he does not "possess" anyone's body - all those are his. To the point he has a closet full of clothes both for men and women, cosmetics, shoes etc.

And maybe this solitude made him into a very quiet and mild-mannered person (wonderful parts by Park Seojun and Cheon Uhee), who's also very attuned to a woman's nature. And when Yisu learns about his unique nature and after some time she decides to date him, the feeling blinds him. Because love is selfish, even such overwhelming like Woojin's. Or maybe precisely because it's such. Yisu starts hearing the rumors at work saying that she's promiscuous because people see her everyday with a different person, she keeps wondering how she could introduce him to her family. And in total - if she's ready to live with a person she has to recognize every day. This leads her to insomnia and overdosing on pills for this and anxiety.

Few dozen of actors and actresses played Woojin - both Korean and foreigners, and the director did a wonderful job to mold all of them into a distinctively Woojin persona. No matter how he looks - be it a black woman, elderly man, a kid, Japanese girl, teenager, grandpa - he is unmistakably Woojin. 

Ueno Juri popped up to appear here.
I got the faint LGBTQ vibe from it, but it might just be me. I might be reading too much into it. I do not want to reveal the ending, although it happens in Prague and is nice. It might be tad too long (little over 2h) but I didn't regret watching it.

Have some trailer:

* Maybe that's why no one has seen him since, hehe. An inside joke, forgive me...

Cast screenshot: AsianWiki