JIFF 2012 Coverage – Morning Glory (Whang Cheol-Mean)

For desistfilm: John A. Riley

Hyun-Jun is an actor, specialising in musical theatre. He is given an opportunity to study acting in America, but before venturing abroad, he returns to the small village where he grew up. Once there he re-kindles his acquaintance with his beautiful cousin So-yeon, acquaintance quickly turning to Romantic desire. Hyun-Jun’s original destination, the bright lights of broadway, begins to seem less of a certainty.

The theme of the Urban sophisticate learning something about himself and about life through a return to rural roots (perhaps being humbled in the process) is a well-worn one. However, this film gives it a strange, amorphous twist. After spending an afternoon in the beautiful Korean countryside, Hyun-Jun attends the funeral of a relative, argues with a rival for So-yeon’s affections, sings tunelessly at length (including a warbled rendition of John Lennon’s nauseating song Love), and at one point attempts to force himself sexually on the object of his affections. An ambiguous ending follows in which So-yeon reflects on the morning glory flower, as if extolling.

This is an interestingly made film, shot in a way that plays to the strengths of its digital video format. The scenes in which Hyun-Jun and So-yeon stroll through the countryside are visually stunning, and there is a genuine chemistry between the two performers.

But this is a strangely inert film. Character motivations seem either obscure or irrational. There is little sense of drama, dilemma or even consistent treatment of theme. The attempted rape is a baffling addition, and one can only assume that the songs Hyun-Jun sings are purposefully dreadful. Morning Glory is a passable study of a dilettante protagonist, but an otherwise unedifying film.

Director: Whang Cheol-Mean
Cinematography:  Kim Kun-jong
Cast: Jin-u, Lee Hye-jin, Yang Han-seul
South Korea
2012
87 min
Korean Features 

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