Many great movies sneak up on you not only with what they’re about, but even the kind of movie they’ll eventually become. Lee Chang-dong’s adaptation of a Haruki Murakami short story at first feels like an awkward character study-cum-romantic triangle, as underemployed would-be writer Jongsu (Ah-In Yoo), who runs into a childhood acquaintance named Haemi (Jong-seo Jeon), falls for her, agrees to care for her cat while she travels to Africa, then finds that she has returned with a possible rival to his attentions in wealthy Ben (Steven Yeun). Lee directs Jongsu’s initial attempts to understand Haemi’s relationship with Ben with an odd comedic touch, like a great moment where Jongsu listens in on a phone call between Ben and another woman. But the narrative ultimately turns darker, exploring corners that evoke contemporary buzzwords like “economic anxiety” and “incels.” Yoo’s performance as Jongsu makes it increasingly difficult to see him as the hero of this story, even when it’s clear that’s the way he sees himself in his pursuit of Haemi. Entitlement, self-delusion and violence collide with a complexity that’ll leave you unsettled.
Director: Lee Chang-dong
Producer: Lee Chang-dong
Cast: Yu Ah-in, Steven Yeun and Jong-seo