By Kara Conley, Current Staff
There’s nothing like watching the same story become a completely different one in a matter of moments.
“Right Now, Wrong Then,” a South Korean film that played at this year’s Milwaukee Film Festival, differentiates itself from those in its genre with the original idea of blending the same story into two separate ones, transformed by adjustments in a few subtleties.
When the film, directed by Hong Sang-soo, began to roll, I was intrigued by the realism it portrayed compared to the classic romantic comedies that endure in American culture.
The movie focuses on Chun-su, a film director who arrives in a new town early for one of his movie showings. As he wanders around, he meets a young woman named Hee-jung, a quiet, introverted artist who was a former model. In a 24-hour span, they talk, have a few drinks, attend a party with some friends, and the usual story of how many relationships form continues.
The first half of the movie cleverly opens with the title of “Right Then, Wrong Now” as the exchange between the characters plays as a melancholy, detached sequence. After the first half, I honestly thought about maybe closing my eyes and drifting to sleep, but I am incredibly glad I stayed awake.
As the second half unfolded, the same setting was on screen, but there was already a clear shift in tone. Viewers then see the same story re-played with slight differences, and in the second version I was laughing and pleasantly surprised by the sudden candidness and spirit the characters displayed as it seemed they were given a second chance to redeem their relationship, not only between themselves, but with the audience.
I was intrigued by the realism it portrayed compared to the classic romantic comedies that endure in American culture.
The issue with the first half in the movie was how Chun-su demonstrated an attitude of arrogance and fabrication. It appeared he was more interested in pleasing Hee-jung rather than displaying his true feelings. This can be clearly seen in the scene where Hee-jung takes Chun-su to see her art studio in which he describes her paintings in the same way he normally describes his own filmmaking process to the media.
A sense of aversion is created for Chun-su as his intentions are questioned by Hee-jung’s friends at the party they attend. Some truths are revealed that add greater displeasure and makes one feel bothered by the events that are taking place.
However, the next part of the movie exhibits the positive effect the sharing of genuine emotions can produce. Chun-su articulates each truth that escapes him and he seems to become unfiltered with thought and sentiment, allowing Hee-jung to reciprocate in the same manner.
The deeper truth the movie shows is how real relationships can flourish if we immediately decide to be open with one another rather than look for gratification. Life is meant to be lived with a realness that rescues us from the imitation of social pressures.
In the end, the movie displays that through authenticity we are capable of making strangers intimate friends in a short while, but it is up to us to embrace our personal identity and allow others to join in the experience of discovering our true selves.
(Image courtesy of Milwaukee Film.)