With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Sunday, February 07, 2016

THE BEAUTY INSIDE reviewed

Well Go USA
Presents
The Beauty Inside / Byuti insaideu
Directed by BAEK Jong-Yeol
South Korea, 2015, 127 minutes

The Beauty Inside debuted on Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD last Tuesday, February 2nd from Well Go USA Entertainment. This review is based on my having watched the Blu-ray version.

Most of us have at one time or another felt not quite like ourselves. But twenty-nine year old KIM Wo-jin experiences that feeling at its most extreme every day after he wakes up. Since his eighteenth birthday he has awoken to find himself a different person than he was when he went to sleep the night before, at least in terms of his physical appearance. His age, gender, even his nationality is subject to transformation without rhyme or reason. Only his memories, his consciousness, remains consistent from day to day.

Only two other people are aware of Wo-jin's unique circumstance. One is his mother, to whom he turned when he first awoke transformed and who, we  learn, has an insight into his condition. The other is Sang-beck, his friend from childhood and who helps him run ALX, Wo-jin's upscale furniture company. Wo-jin does the design and construction, while Sang-beck handles relations with clients and customers, something that the different-every-day Wo-jin could not possibly do.

Wo-jin's life changes when he falls for HONG E-soo (HAN Hyo-yoo, seen in C'est Ci Bon and Masquerade). She's a lovely and knowledgeable saleswoman at Mamastudio, a furniture store that sells high end items like those Wo-jin makes. He hits upon a way to see her and, using a trick, prevent himself from transforming into a different looking person. But this only works for a very limited time and then he must decide whether to reveal his secret to E-soo. If he does, what will be her reaction to having a relationship with someone who looks different each day?

The film is described as a romantic comedy in its publicity materials and that's not really wrong. It's certainly a film about romance and has many comic touches. But it's more of a romantic drama than comedy, dealing at great length with serious issues such as just what, or who, is it that we "fall in love" with and can love for a person's inner beauty overcome considerable obstacles.

There are by my count and the cast list at IMDb, twenty-two people who play Wo-jin. And while some have no lines and only brief screen time, director BAEK has done a remarkable job of making them all seem to be various manifestations of the same person, despite all the variations in age, sex and nationality. One of the Wo-jins is KO Ah-sung, the marvelous young actress seen in The Host (2006), Snowpiercer (2013), and more recently, Office (2015). She does have considerable screen time, consistent with her great talent. High praise must also be given to HAN Hy-yoo, who gives a spectacular and touching performance as E-soo.

Disc Specs:
-- Audio
  -- Korean DTS 5.1 HDMA
  -- Korean 2.0 stereo
-- Subtitles
  -- English
  -- Off
-- Additional Features
  -- Trailer
  -- Previews of other Well Go USA releases
    -- Lost in Hong Kong
    -- Very Good Girls
    -- And While We Were Here 

AsianCineFest Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very highly recommended. A most original and well-executed romantic drama with quite a fair amount of humor.

One last comment: be sure to stick around through the credits so you don't miss a very nice coda.

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