Review: Hong Sang-soo’s beguiling, ruminative rom-com ‘Yourself and Yours’
South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo has already premiered six more feature films since “Yourself and Yours” first played festivals in 2016. Though it is only now receiving a U.S. release, it says something about the ever-prolific filmmaker’s consistency and extremely high level of proficiency that the film still seems fresh and enchanting, by turns delicate, romantic, mysterious, witty and crushing.
The relaxed hang-out rhythms of Hong’s work are just right for these shelter-in-place times, though seeing the characters casually spend time in neighborhood bars and coffee shops will bring a certain unanticipated melancholy. There is a delightful sense of everyday adventure to the film as the characters are seen talking, drinking, sitting around and just living.
A young artist, Young-soo (Kim Joo-hyuk), is told by a friend that his girlfriend Min-jung (Lee Yoo-young) has been spotted out drinking with another man. Meanwhile, a young woman drinking coffee is approached by another man and asked if she is Min-jung. She says no, but eventually allows that she has a twin by that name. Driven by his jealousy and confusion, Young-soo argues with Min-jung when she comes home late one night and they break up. The other woman (if it is another woman, also played by Lee) continues to have encounters with other men, eventually meeting a heartbroken Young-soo and the two immediately connect. (In a further twist, the film’s stars began dating in real life after making the film, until Kim’s death from a car accident in 2017.)
Drawing from influences such as Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” Buñuel’s “That Obscure Object of Desire” and Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy,” Hong explores how identity can be shaped by relationships and the expectations partners place on each other. Without ever presenting answers, the film playfully questions who are we, really, even to ourselves, and whether it is possible for relationships to be given a reset.
With a running time under 90 minutes, “Yourself and Yours” wisely does not wear out its welcome. Rather, the movie manages to feel both ponderous and enigmatic, remaining light without feeling insignificant, comfortable with being a ruminative rom-com. Lee’s performance in particular conveys a beguiling, inviting charm, even as it deepens the central conundrum. As Min-jung — or perhaps her double or even another version of herself — says at one point, “There’s so much we’ll never know. Don’t try to know everything.”
A filmmaker as prolific as Hong often runs a risk of devaluing the individual films, as if the artist is attempting to outrun something, staying one step ahead of critics, audiences and their own artistic output. Though being released here in the States out of order from when it was made, “Yourself and Yours” finds a filmmaker who firmly knows who he is and where he’s at.
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