- Colin Fraser
FOUR STARS A young man falls in love, but she has fallen for the trappings of a playboy, until she goes missing.
Ah-in Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jun
DRAMA KOREA FOREIGN LANGUAGE #BURNING
This excellent Korean thriller was a Palm D’Or nominee at Cannes 2018 and went on to earn a slew of awards globally. With good reason. In a tensely understated fashion it wraps its head around some pretty big themes: loneliness, class tension and murder among them.
It begins quite benignly when a young woman, Hae-mi, makes friends with Jong-su, a young man who’s recently inherited his father’s plot of dirt near the North Korean border. They hit it off and Jong-Su offers to take care of Hae-mi’s cat when she goes backpacking. He doesn’t expect her to return with a new boyfriend, Ben, an enigmatic and clearly wealthy playboy. As well as driving his very fast car, Ben likes to set fire to derelict glass-houses. Jong-su thinks Ben is trouble, then Hae-mi goes missing.
BURNING is a handsomely produced film that little by little, step by step, moment by moment, frame by frame turns from a being a quiet, domestic drama into an electrifying thriller. Along the way it invites you to consider those big themes against the simmering tension between the story’s principles. Yet the more you watch, the less certain you become about what you’re watching, which is rather the point. Teasing audiences, director Chang-don Lee forces you to think long and hard about the world around his characters and, by extension, the world around you.
Lee has elicited excellent performances from his cast who never fail to convince. He’s also loaded his film with acute observations about legacy and privilege, jealousy and revenge that may be largely unspoken yet fill the screen with a, ahem, burning intensity. BURNING is challenging stuff and at nearly two and a half hours, somewhat exhausting. Yet it rewards patience - the ending is a shocker - and like any good work out, your effort is repaid in spades.