LOVE, IN BETWEEN (2010)
Director: Chong Yun-su
Cast: Shin Eun-kyung, Jeoung Jun-ho, Shim Yi-young
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Released By: Shaw & InnoForm Media
Rating: R21 (Sexual Scenes & Nudity)
Official Website: www.twowomen2010.co.kr
Opening Day: 29 September 2011
Synopsis: What appeared to be a perfect marriage starts to crumble with husband’s affair
Architect and college professor, Jisok, and his wife, Soyoung, a doctor, had what seemed like true love and perfect marriage. That is, until Soyoung starts to become suspicious of her husband’s affair. A coincidental visit to her husband’s college brings the simmering suspicion to the surface and Soyoung approaches her husband’s mistress and student, Suzzie, by taking her yoga classes.
A devious engagement develops into friendship!
Suzzie openly and unsuspectingly accepts Soyoung’s friendship. Their friendship develops and Suzzie and starts depending on Soyoung. This presents an opportunity for Soyoung to monitor the details of her husband’s affair with Suzzie. But what started as jealousy and motivation for revenge turns into understanding and compassion confusing and putting Soyoung into despair. Soyoung is forced to make a decision between her trusting friend Suzzie who innocently opened up to her and Jisok who wanted to keep both his perfect wife and attractive lover. They face having to make a final choice, all in the name of love.
Stylishly directed but emotionally void, "Love, In Between" does something that only the South Koreans seem to do best -- the erotic melodrama. Classy and beautifully shot, this film oozes a certain sensual sensibility and tantalising tease but remains withholding at its core. The fascination by first-time feature director Chong Yun-su is clear given the abundance of striking nudity featuring beautiful Asian bodies twirling around each other in its immaculately designed set and alluringly photographed in quaint angles.
The story is familiar, especially to anyone that has seen last year's "Chloe" -- a wife discovers her husband has been carrying on an affair with a younger woman and investigates, becoming closer to the mistress as time goes on. Upper middle anxieties invade gynaecologist So-young's (Shin Eun-kyung) affluent household with her husband architect-teacher Jisok. (Jeoung Jun-ho) when she finds a stray condom and illicit messages between him and Suzzie (Shim Yi-young), his yoga-instructing pixie-haired student. She tracks her down and joins the gym where she works, slowly trying to decipher why in the world would her husband risk their perfect life for this particular girl by becoming her friend but not telling her who she really is. The film hints at the idea that the lack of a child (though apparently not for the lack of trying) in their marriage creating a certain malaise in their matrimony but like many other aspects in the film, it never truly chases down what makes these characters tick but instead looks towards its aesthetics to pull the tepid story through.
The film plays with many psychological tropes but never truly commits to any of them, though at times does make a go of actually giving its actors something to work with other than constant disrobing. So-young and Suzzie's relationship has a constant sexual tension, we wait for the almost obligatory sapphic pay-off between them given their increasingly close physical proximity. You come to realise then why its original title in South Korea is "Two Women," given that most of the film revolves around their relationship and waiting for the ball to drop on when Suzzie or Jisok finds out about So-young's masquerade.
Then there's the evolution between the characters as we begin to sympathise with Suzzie when we come to realise that out of the three, she is the only one who feels something akin to true love. The sexual minefield between the husband and the wife comes to a breaking point yet the only casualty remains the mistress. Up until its intensely melodramatic and improbably inane climax, the film creates a sexy tone tempered by its push-pull characterisation of its protagonist Shin Eun-kyung gives a good go at giving her character a certain verve in So-young's eventual emergence from a repressed background but "Love, In Between" never truly has anything at stake within itself, or at least never bothers cluing us in on it. We see its characters moving between emotions but we never feel it and that's something that severely cripples a film such as this.
(Gorgeously filmed but emotionally vacant)
Review by Justin Deimen
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