Movie Review: Burning – Watched 04/02/2019


Burning (2018)

Beoning (original title)
Not Rated | | Drama, Mystery | 17 May 2018 (South Korea)

Director: Chang-dong Lee

Writers: Jungmi Oh (screenplay by) (as Jung-mi Oh), Chang-dong Lee (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »

Stars: Ah-in Yoo, Steven Yeun, Jong-seo Jun |

IMDb Letterboxd

Burning first came on my radar after checking out one of two sites I often frequent for movie-related content. As soon as I saw that Steven Yuen was in it and that he was playing the antagonist, I was sold. I’ve been a fan of Steven Yuen since his Walking Dead days, and he’s gone onto bigger and brighter things since. One could say that leaving The Walking Dead was possibly the best thing he could have done and he is fantastic in this film.

The plot itself isn’t really all that unique, but there is something almost heartbreaking about the way the story of Jong-su is captured that sets it apart right from the beginning. The director did a magnificent job with this film, and the actors were equally as well cast.


Jong-su is the lonely boy that stumbles upon an old flame, Hae-mi from his village back in a rural part of Seoul. They quickly embark on a passionate fling when Hae-mi drops a bomb by telling him that she’s going abroad to South Africa. Jong-su, being the quiet type, doesn’t protest and Hae-mi leaves for South Africa. Returning several weeks later, Hae-mi arrives with an unexpected surprise for Jong-su in the shape of a new “friend” Ben played by Steven Yuen. Ben’s presence instantly puts Jong-su in a peculiar and awkward position. Is this guy a friend or a potential boyfriend? Jong-su again kinda goes with the flow because he adores Hae-mi. The girl could commit murder, and Jong-su would see nothing but roses and fluffy puppies.

The excruciatingly painful thing about the relationship between Jong-su and Hae-mi is that as a voyeur looking in from the outside, you’re never really sure of where things are headed. They’re having a sexual relationship, but that seems about the only thing other than their past that links them. Which in itself is kind of sad, especially for Jong-su. But with Ben hovering around Hae-mi, Jong-su is left wondering what the hell is going on. Not to mention the overly calm and calculating disposition Ben seems to have no matter what happens. It’s actually a bizarre love triangle because, for all that’s happening on screen, there’s very little happening between Ben and Hae mi even though it feels like there is. It’s hard to explain. It’s almost like whatever is going on between them is happening behind closed doors, and just like Jong-su, we’re not invited.

“You can make it disappear like it never existed…”

The pace of the film is oddly very slow burning (no pun intended) which would usually put me right off. I like fast-paced movies that keep you up and white-knuckled in anticipation of the next scene. But the overall “feel” of this film creeps up on you out of nowhere. It’s almost unsettling and uncomfortable. The tension initially builds very slowly but once you begin to understand what it is that’s behind Ben’s pretty little smile, you’re in for a real treat!

I’ve seen some critics questioning the ending of this film as if it’s almost something they didn’t quite expect or even want to happen. The final 10 minutes to me were a blessing because all the tension that’s been slowly building up throughout the film is finally released in one climactic whopper of a “holy crap” kind of scene. You will literally feel a wave of relief wash over you.

I don’t often get to watch a film that I’ve been waiting for exceed my expectations like this one did. I hope you have the same experience if you decide to watch it.


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