Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Review: Beauty Inside (2015)

Sometimes one would wonder what it would be like to live in another person's body just once. For a man named Woo-jin, this was his life and simultaneously his nightmare. So when he finds the woman he loves, it becomes a struggle to keep their relationship and, just like the title of the film, seek the Beauty Inside.

Beauty Inside is actually a remake of an award-winning social film of the same title, directed by Drake Doremus back in 2012. While the American version takes a more interactive approach to its storytelling where audience can partake in the storytelling through Facebook, the Korean Beauty Inside decides to employ a lot of actors. Like, a lot. The billed cast itself is comprised of over 20 names, and there’s more where that comes from. Some of the big names on the list include Lee Bum-soo, Park Shin-hyeGo Ah-sung, Cheon Woo-hee, Lee Dong-wook, Park Seo-joon, Yoo Yeon-seok, Ueno Juri, Lee Jin-wook... I could go on. (There’s actually 123 Woo-jins in the movie. Wrap your head around that.)

The movie centers around a man named Woo-jin (narrated by Yoo Yeon-seok), a furniture designer, who has a peculiar condition where he wakes up as a new person every day. The only thing that is truly him is his memories. He lives a lonely life where only his mother (Moon Sook) and best friend (Lee Dong-hwi) know of his circumstances. During a visit to a furniture re-seller, he sees Yi-soo (Han Hyo-joo) and quickly falls in love with her. He would visit her every day, with a different yet equally pleasant experience each time. He waits for the perfect moment to reveal his feelings, and this moment comes when he wakes up as a handsome young man (Park Seo-joon). Being the shape shifter that he is, his love life is more complicated than most but after the expected misunderstandings, Yi-soo comes to accept Woo-jin for who he is. But falling in love with a man with a different face every day, or your lover looking at you like a stranger each time is difficult for anyone.

Among the select few romantic comedies I've watched this year, Beauty Inside is definitely the best out of them all. Actually, it's probably the only one I recommend. In hindsight, I don't think there's a strong comedy element to the movie, but it's pleasant enough not to fall into the drama category. And I think that's why I enjoyed this movie a lot more than others. It's not formulaic, nor trying too hard. It's simple in its message. And despite the sheer size of its cast, Woo-jin becomes real. He's someone who you can almost relate to.

Really, the heart and soul of this movie is Yi-soo, portrayed with undisputed charm by the lovely Han Hyo-joo. Over the years I've watched a few of her works and thought they were alright. But she always felt distant as an actress. In this movie she was wonderful, to say the least. She became not only the woman Woo-jin loved, but a woman all of us can love.

The beauty of Beauty Inside is the subtle commentary of superficiality. Woo-jin mentioned briefly about the ups and downs of his condition, mainly regarding what face he gets that day. The mechanics of the condition was never explained, but my guess is that he "takes" the faces of the people around him. So he doesn't only get male faces, or young adult faces, or even Korean faces. He gets a variety, from (very) young and old, male to female, different ethnicities, especially when he was living abroad. And he blatantly revealed that life is always easier when you're young and beautiful. Prior to a party Yi-soo invited him to, Woo-jin woke up as an old lady and debated whether he should skip the party altogether or come as her grandmother. He ended up giving luck a chance and went back to sleep. Thankfully he woke up as Lee Jin-wook.

But what if he woke up as a little boy? Or a girl Yi-soo's age? Or another grandma? That's the thing I'm most critical about the movie, is the whole mechanics of the change. I suppose since it is a fantasy element we don't really need to know every single detail of it. Hell, Woo-jin himself doesn't even know. But in the back of my mind I'm always rejecting the condition. I guess like much of everyone in that universe or Woo-jin during the beginning. It was mentioned that Yi-soo did end up finding out how Woo-jin makes his transformation, where she gets to see the real him as he was about to wake up, although I'm unsure if she meant this literally. It still doesn't explain anything. Especially anything that has to do with documents. I can't wrap my head around how Woo-jin can have a driver's license or be able to get on any plane, let alone move to a new country.

I still recommend this movie wholeheartedly though, especially if you're craving for a grounded romantic movie. A man who has a different face everyday isn't the most earthly of problems in the world, but his story and Yi-soo's is like our very own. We all have the potential to be different people everyday. Similarly the only remaining thing of ourselves is similar to Woo-jin's that is our own memory (which isn't even the most reliable in the first place). And we're all a little bit like Yi-soo, taking a chance loving someone or something who will change and loving them anyways. Because that's life.

1 comment:

  1. Love your review and your analogy on how Woo Jin and Yi Soo are similar to us. Beauty Inside is beautiful despite its flaws. Han Hyo Joo is amazing, but all of the actors who played Woo Jin are exquisite as well.