Burning: Film Review

Burning, a psychological drama/mystery from South Korea, is another one I missed at the London Film Festival and I’m glad I caught up on it because Steven Yeun‘s performance is incredible and the film really leaves you thinking.

Ah-in Yoo is Jung-so, a college graduate who has gone back home to look after his father’s farm after his dad ends up in prison. One day he meets old school friend Hae-mi (Jong-seo Jun) and they have sex just before she goes on a trip to Africa. Upon her return, she is joined by the mysterious Ben (Yeun) and things get weird.

It’s best not to say any more than that really because I don’t want to give anything away. It is a mystery and I suppose you could call it a thriller although the thrills come few and far between. The story is great but it didn’t need to be so long – Burning is two and a half hours and there is no reason for that. It feels super slow and I would have been way more gripped and hooked on the story if it had been tighter and with a snappier pace. It is a slow-burner and it does come to an excellent and satisfying climax but it requires a lot of concentration and patience to get there.

I feel like more could have been done with such a strong premise. The film is shot beautifully (some shots are absolutely stunning) but I just wanted more, more, more. I was waiting for the thrills to truly kick in but you only get snippets of that before the wicked ending.

Also, I’m made it clear before that I’m not a fan of ambiguity. This isn’t completely vague but everything is implied so subtly you’re not sure if you are interpreting the hints in the right way. I just like to truly know what happens and more details would have been nice.

However, I cannot deny the brilliant performance from Yeun. You are always wondering if he is the villain of the piece but he gives nothing away. He is always calm, collected and hospitable and that makes him all the more creepy, in a super subtle way. I’m used to seeing him play the lovely Glenn (RIP) in The Walking Dead so it was wonderful to see him doing something totally different. I love it when actors play against type. More of this from Yeun, please! His co-stars are equally strong, with Yoo being the audience’s eyes and a sympathetic, likeable character.

Burning is worth a watch, particularly if you are a Yeun fan – it is shot beautifully and the mystery is intriguing, it’s just a bit of a slog.

In selected cinemas Friday 1st February 

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