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Review: Visually pleasing film tackles questions of inner beauty, love

Aug 21,2015
From left, Kim Sang-ho, Park Seo-joon, Ko A-sung and Juri Ueno are among the 21 actors who play Woo-jin, who wakes up every day in different skin. Han Hyo-joo, below, plays his one and only love interest, Yi-soo. Provided by Next Entertainment World
Former adman Baek Jong-yeol’s debut feature, “The Beauty Inside,” should be a relief for anyone tired of loud, over-the-top action films dominating the box office right now.

Hinting at his former profession, Baek’s movie glows with an alluring and sophisticated atmosphere, with warm tones and melodious music reminiscent of a well-made TV ad.

However, the message contained in the film is much more insightful than any TV commercial.

As the only contemporary romance film in theaters at the moment, this innovative project features as many as 123 actors who play the part of a 29-year-old guy named Woo-jin, who wakes up every day in a different body, transcending gender, age and even race.

So for instance, today he is a gorgeous-looking punk who can pick up any girl at a posh bar, but tomorrow he wakes up in the same bed as an old man whose face is covered with age spots. The film is an adaptation of a 2012 web drama series from Intel&Toshiba.

The only people who know Woo-jin’s big secret are his mother and best friend Sang-baek (Lee Dong-hui), whom Woo-jin collaborates with to launch a unique furniture label where he works behind closed doors to design chairs and tables.

One day, Woo-jin comes across a beautiful girl named Yi-soo, played by Han Hyo-joo, who works at a furniture store. He desperately wants to ask her out, but his mysterious condition prevents him from doing so.

So he waits. He waits until the day he wakes up as a 20-something good-looking guy to confess his love. This version of Woo-jin is played by Park Seo-joon. He is among 21 well-known actors, such as Yoo Yeon-seok, Chun Woo-hee and Kim Joo-hyuk.

From Yi-soo’s furniture store to Woo-jin’s secretive dwelling, the wooden interiors and somewhat rusty ambience make the film’s overall vibe all the more dreamlike - a nod to Baek’s talent for creating visual feasts for the audience.

Yi-soo, who has become aware of Woo-jin’s body shifting, is nevertheless attracted to him, no matter how he looks - whether he is an old man, a young student or even a girl.

Each episode with a different Woo-jin evokes different emotions, ranging from happiness, to embarrassment and even discomfort. But the way Yi-soo embraces each and every one makes a clear point.

The core message here is to accept somebody’s essence regardless of their exterior and to see the beauty residing inside everyone.

But more enlightening is the message about the preconditions of a healthy relationship. The film demonstrates the simple but forgettable fact that effort and a certain degree of sacrifice are required for a relationship to work.

Woo-jin doesn’t understand the agony of Yi-soo, who has to date an ever-changing man, while Yi-soo doesn’t grasp the ongoing and maybe endless vulnerability of Woo-jin, who is rarely able to form lasting relationships.

The film’s strongest point is undoubtedly its fantastic visuals - what Baek can do best - but the story also exceeds expectations. Its freshness is definitely something we haven’t seen in theaters lately.

The film opened nationwide on Thursday.


BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]







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