Hong Sang-soo (홍상수) Yourself and Yours (당신 자신과 당신의 것, 2016)
Review by Robert Cottingham.
You can tell from the opening titles exactly the kind of film this is going to be. Black Korean calligraphy on a white background suggests an intelligent and possibly artistic film and the lively classical music hints at a sophisticated comedy on love and relationships.
Yes, it’s a comedy, but one with brains. The humour is always grounded in realistic situations and believable characters.
Yongsoo goes to meet a friend and they discuss Minjeong, his girlfriend with whom he intends to marry. She has been seen drinking heavily in one of the local bars and when Minjeong is confronted by Yongsoo she denies it was her, but Yongsoo is unable to ignore the rumours. Feeling hurt that he doesn’t seem to trust her, Minjeong leaves him. Devastated, Yongsoo tries to win her back. Meanwhile, Minjeong, or someone who looks very similar, is meeting men in bars and having casual relationships with them. Yongsoo eventually reunites with Minjeong and they continue their relationship.
Hong Sang-soo, who makes films about relationships, has been called the Woody Allen of Asia and you can see why. His characters are somewhat world weary, and in the case of Yongsoo, given to moments of self–pity and despair. When Yongsoo tells his friends that love is all there is in the world, the rest is just compensation for when you don’t have love, it’s not hard to imagine Woody Allen saying the same thing. Meanwhile, Minjeong, sexually available, yet innocent and lacking self-awareness, could be any number of Allen’s heroines. And then consider the locations (I’d guess this was filmed in Hongdae): from coffee bars to streams and parks, we are miles away from the hectic urban centre of Seoul which is the typical backdrop of most Korean films.
Minjeong (Lee Yoo-young) is certainly a complicated character, and one who doesn’t always have the audience’s sympathy. A repeated joke in the film is that she pretends not to recognize men when they approach her. Is she the real Minjeong, or is she in fact Minjeong’s twin? In this case, the hard-drinking and promiscuous Minjeong who has been seen by Yongsoo’s friends is not the same as the woman he has been in a relationship with. Or does it matter? In any relationship there must be trust, and that means sometimes ignoring rumours and gossip.
Yongsoo’s friends seem to be the jealous ones here, motivated not by care towards their friend but by wanting to punish Minjeong for her perceived immoral behavior. Yongsoo is punished for his lack of faith in Minjeong, first when she leaves him, and secondly by breaking his leg in an accident which we do not see. Only when Yongsoo learns to trust again is he able to finally get back together with Minjeong. As the character said earlier, the most important thing in life is love, everything else is just is just compensation for when you don’t have it.
Yourself and Yours was the final screening of the 2016 London Korean Film Festival, on 17 November 2016.