Yourself and Yours (2016) ☆☆☆(3/4): Herself and His

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Baffling and playful, South Korean film “Yourself and Yours” has a little fun with those familiar matters of heart. Because I did not know much about its plot when I watched the movie during this Thursday evening, I initially felt confused and a bit frustrated with its odd set-up without any explanation, but then I came to go along with its repetitive narrative as enjoying several humorous moments, and I eventually got its insightful points on how a romantic relationship often demands a lot more than love.

Young-soo (Kim Joo-hyeok) is a painter living in a neighborhood area of Yeon-nam dong in Seoul, and the opening scene shows Young-soo’s afternoon conversation with his close friend at his studio. Their conversation is initially about Young-soo’s ill mother, but the conversation soon revolves around a certain rumor about Young-soo’s girlfriend Min-jeong (Lee Yoo-young). According to Young-soo’s friend, she caused some trouble a few days ago while drinking a lot with some other guy, and Young-soo naturally comes to have doubts on her although he cannot believe the rumor at first. He surely loves her, but what if she is much different from what he thinks of her? Does she drink behind her back as the rumor suggests? And is it true that she has a bad reputation around the neighborhood for her drinking?

When he and Min-jeong are about to sleep together later in his small residence, Young-soo brings out his growing suspicion to her, and that leads to a very awkward circumstance. He demands her to tell the truth, but she does not give any clear answer to his questions, and that results in a tense, frustrating quarrel between them. As he alternates between anger and pettiness, she eventually says that she needs temporary separation from him, and then she promptly leaves him without any hesitation.

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During the following parts, Young-soo is shown with the injury in his left foot (the movie never tells us how that happened), but that does not stop him from searching for his girlfriend around his neighborhood. Accompanied with his friend, he goes to her residence not so far from his place, but it looks like she is not there, and she is not even at her nearby workplace. Becoming more frustrated and depressed than before, he spends the rest of the day with his friend at a local bar, and we get a typical drunken conversation scene we can expect from the director/writer Hong Sang-soo. Young-soo says that he loves Min-jeong despite all that happened between them, but it is apparent that, while mired in drunken self-pity, he is still struggling with who she really is.

As his search for Min-jeong continues during next few days, we get a series of delightfully confounding sequences involved with her – or someone else, perhaps. When a guy drops by a local coffee shop, he notices ‘Min-jeong’ in the shop, and he asks her whether they met before, but she does not seem to recognize him at all. He rather rudely insists that he knows her, and he also mentions an incident not so different from the aforementioned rumor. She eventually replies that he mistakes her for her twin sister Min-jeong, but we cannot help but wonder whether she lies or not. Does Min-jeong really has a twin sister? Or is it just a simple convenient lie to avoid any embarrassment? And did they really meet before?

Like Hong’s previous film “The Day He Arrives” (2011), the movie repeatedly rolls its characters within its small background while doing some variations here and there. At one point later in the movie, ‘Min-jeong’ encounters another guy at the same coffee shop, and this is also developed into a circumstance not so different from the previous case. While Young-soo keeps going around same places, we notice how each day of his goes differently at key points, and there is a small surprise around the end of the scene in which Young-soo goes to Min-jeong’s residence again.

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As we keep wondering about Min-jeong as much as Young-soo, the movie finds a witty and clever way to end the story while not sacrificing its ambiguity at all. I am not going to describe its finale in details for not spoiling your entertainment, but I can tell you that its two lead performers are believable in their ambiguous but somehow clear interactions. While Kim Joo-hyeok, who recently gave a nice supporting performance in “The Truth Beneath” (2016), is both silly and sympathetic as a guy who really needs to understand woman more, Lee Yoo-young is charming to watch even when we are not exactly sure about who she is playing. Kwon Hae-hyo and Yoo Joon-sang appear as two crucial supporting characters, and Kim Ee-seong, who has been more notable since his solid supporting performances in “The Day He Arrives”, “Architecture 101” (2012), and “The Face Reader” (2013), holds his own place as Young-soo’s friend.

“Yourself and Yours” is Hong’s 18th feature film, and that reminds me of how I have been accustomed to his works and their consistent subjects as he has kept releasing one or two films every year. I only admired his early works such as “Tale of Cinema” (2005) and “Woman on the Beach” (2006), but I came to enjoy his later works such as “In Another Country” (2011) and “Right Now, Wrong Then” (2015). Drinking and woman have been his usual story elements, and I must tell you that Isabelle Huppert drinking a bottle of soju in “In Another Country” is something we do not see everyday.

“Yourself and Yours” does not have something as memorable as that priceless moment, but this lightweight comedy is as enjoyable as you can expect from Hong’s movie, and you may learn something important about love and relationship as having small good laughs from it. They say love is blind, but it takes some extra efforts to be blind enough for maintaining a romantic relationship, you know.

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