Dangsin-eolgul-apeseo [In Front of Your Face] (2021)

Director: Sang-soo Hong
Writer: Sang-soo Hong
Cast: Lee Hye-yeong, Hae-hyo Kwon, Yunhee Cho
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 31.10.2021

Sangok (Lee Hye-yeong) is staying with her sister Jeongok (Yunhee Cho). She lives abroad and has come to re-visit her old home, and meet with director Jaewon (Hae-hyo Kwon) who has always admired Sangok as an actress and would like to do a project with her. It is unclear, though, if Sangok can do it.

In Front of Your Face is a slow, calm film that works only in part. But when it does, there is a certain magic to it.

The film poster showing a blurry image of Sangok (Lee Hye-yeong) hugging herself.

In Front of Your Face is not a particularly long film, but it is a slow one and that (lack of) speed makes it feel much longer than it is. Especially since the scenes between Sangok and Jeongok just didn’t capture my attention. They remain strangely stilted and unemotional.

But once Sangok meets Jaewon, the film really hits its stride. The meeting the two have, largely shot from a stationary angle in very long takes, opens up a space of intimacy and a moment of magic that feels entirely removed from the mundanity of the rest of the film. That is both true for the characters and the audience.

Sangok (Lee Hye-yeong) talking to a little girl.

For that alone, especially for Lee Hye-yeong’s performance in it, the film is definitely worth seeing, I’d say. Despite the fact that the rest of the film left me not only bored, but also a little cold. It made me wish a little that the entire film just consisted of that encounter and Sangok’s morning after.

But it is what it is, and maybe the feeling of distance at the beginning is necessary to make the sense of connection later-on stand out that much stronger. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that the film could have been more.

Sangok (Lee Hye-yeong) sleeping on a sofa.

Summarizing: when it’s good, it’s very good, but it’s not good all the time.

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