Monday, August 26, 2013

늑대소년 (A Werewolf Boy)


Fragile teenager 순이 (박보영) relocates to the countryside with her sister and widowed mother for the betterment of her respiratory condition. Left with almost nothing, they live a hand-to-mouth existence in the house owned by 지태, the son of her father’s business partner, who lusts after her. One day, they encounter a teenage boy who could not speak and whose behavior is similar to that of a wild animal. The caring mother adopts him and gives him the name 철수 (송중기). Unknown to them, he is actually a werewolf. 순이 hates him at first, although her persistence pays off when she manages to tame the beast inside him, but he could only repress so much of his wild side as danger looms. Forced to separate due to threats to his life, she asks him to wait for her, and promises that she will come back for him. 46 years later, she does.

The comparison to Twilight is inevitable, but as the meme goes, this is still a better love story than Twilight. Way better. It has to be the careful attention to detail that the director gives to every aspect of film-making involved, from the poignant musical score all the way to the cinematography which gives you some air of misplaced nostalgia. The CGI is impressive, although the transformation from man to werewolf could have gotten a better treatment. Even so, you can easily brush this aside because the movie makes up for it in more ways than one.

The story itself is not something to write home about. To cut it short, girl falls in love with boy. Boy turns out to be a werewolf. Unfortunately, we live in a society where personal happiness has to give way to societal norms that have to be followed. You know what happens next. You just have to resign yourself to the fact that this movie will not end happily; it is tagged as a melodrama, after all.

There is this one scene towards the end that just moves you. You know that it is going to happen. You try to convince yourself that it might not be the case, but you know deep inside that it actually is. And so you are held hostage to witness that one heart-breaking scene, to which all the momentum built up eventually leads. No one will blame you if you end up crying. It is meant to be truly sad. The point is, for such a mere scene in a film to stir such emotions, perhaps there is no point arguing that this one is a true cinematic gem. The box office agrees. This is one of South Korea’s highest grossing films, and even the locals themselves agree that such distinction is not normal for a big screen melodrama.

There are several funny scenes thrown in as an attempt for something light, but the overall melancholic feel is always lingering in the background, giving you a clue as to what is going to happen. Many people who have seen this film say that it is beautiful, and that is probably the most appropriate way to describe it. As humans, there could only be a limited array of universal experiences that we could relate to, and stories are bound to repeat themselves over time. In the end, it is by virtue of execution that one movie differs from another. It is in this area that this film succeeds. The story is cliché, but the direction could not have been handled any better. Make sure you have some Kleenex at hand.

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