Published on December 21st, 2012 | by ponyforprez1
A Werewolf Boy: Of painful young love and separation
Korean television and movies have time and time again veered toward the melancholy and dramatic, placing emphasis on love-lorn/revenge-driven/angst-ridden characters. For someone who prefers lighter, romantic comedies that are faster paced and don’t dwell too long on certain story plots, it would take only the cast of a melodrama to get me watching it. A Werewolf Boy is one such example.
Having just shortly wrapped up another melodrama, Nice Guy, starring Song Joong Ki, I was more than ready to crank up the emotions for A Werewolf Boy, where Joong Ki plays devoted wolf-child to Park Bo Young‘s waifish yet strong-willed character. The show was released on September 11 in Korea and chalked up some crazy views, currently making it the top melodrama of all time, surpassing Architecture 101, which held that spot not too long ago. Amazing, isn’t it?
The movie is set in 1965 and takes place in the countryside on the outskirts of Seoul, where Kim Suni and her mother and sister move to, in a bid to improve her health. This makes for a perfect dreamy, almost misty-like landscape throughout the entire show, which is primarily enveloped in a duller colour palette. It’s a great set-up for the almost fairytale plot, for the lush surroundings and lack of prominent buildings or developed infastructure lend a wistfully nostalgic touch that reminds one of a certain Tim Burton.
The themes of the movie are kept simple, but in retrospect, in the most powerful way possible. A gentle nature and a brutal one. Humans and beasts. While the early bits of the movie include laugh-out-loud comical moments, writer-director Jo Sung-hee ultimately hits home on the sob-fest so well, that the movie makes for a heart-wrenching two-hour journey (spoilers ahead!).
Sumi’s initial aloof and self-hating nature (she writes demeaning phrases about herself in her diary every night) quickly makes way when her mother and her discover an untamed, hostile boy crouching in their front yard. Affectionally dubbed Cheol-su by her mother, Sumi is frustrated with the unwanted guest’s sudden intrusion into her family – bringing along his uncouth habits and terrible table manners. Yet, she is soon able to put aside her own problems to focus on taming Cheol-su using a dog-training manual, fast strengthening the bond between the two characters.
What makes this movie get past its fairly simple plot and evolve into something much more moving and powerful is the acting from our great cast here. Having almost no lines in the movie, Joong Ki is effortless at conveying the various emotions via only facial expressions and body movements that his feral character plays. I was fully impressed by every little detail he took into consideration, including jolting up a little in happiness whenever he sees Sumi or actually snarling at the Yoo Yeon-seok‘s evil character. Song Joong Ki! Snarling!
But it’s definitely a combined effort of the two leads – backed by a good supporting cast – because Bo Young is convincing as the teenage girl who matches Cheol-su’s love with wild abandon, never once thinking of running away or leaving Cheol-su even after witnessing his ability to harm. The 22-year-old actress is also incredible at crying scenes – the kind that pushes realistic emoting to a whole new competitive level.
The movie certainly displays the best of Joong Ki and Bo Young’s abilities as actors, but it’s also worth a watch or two despite teetering on being slightly draggy (a little over two hours) because it’s chock full of heart and unwavering loyalty. Fans of melodramas will love this, and those who don’t will as well, because A Werewolf Boy isn’t just about the romance between a girl and a supernatural being, it’s a story that has you revisiting selflessness, first love, separation, and self-discovery long after you’ve finished watching it.
(Movie stills from hancinema.net)