Movie Review: Innocent Thing (2014)
2014 was a year full of Jang Na Ra and Jang Hyuk overdose. They both shone through their snail couple interaction in Fated to Love You and we had the chance to treasure the bittersweet aesthetic of Old Goodbye with both of them as the main leads. At this point, Jang Na Ra is moving forward with Mr. Back and Jang Hyuk is preparing himself for the Shine or Go Crazy drama journey. Recently i came across Innocent Thing (or Thorn) and Jang Hyuk’s presence was a good reason to watch it since at least in terms of interpreting he wouldn’t disappoint. Another strong reason was Jo Bo Ah’s female lead role in her first movie. It’s been some time since i wanted to find out whether she’s got acting potential or not since she’s a young actress, but i hadn’t met with Surplus Princess and Shut Up: Flower Boy Band on a drama crossroad. So, Innocent Thing was a good chance for something interesting to say the least!
The scenario in the first place was something neither innovative nor something that would change the world of scriptwriting. It even reminded me of the Japanese drama Taisetsu na Koto wa Subete Kim ga Oshiete Kureta (You Taught Me All the Important Things) in terms of synopsis, so my first impression before watching the movie was leaning towards that direction. Kim Joon Ki (Jang Hyuk) is a physical education teacher at an all-girls high school, something that makes him automatically a sparkling star in their hearts’ universe. His wife, Seo Yeon (Sun Woo Sun), is pregnant and her family appears to have been quite supportive towards her and Joon Ki by buying them an apartment and placing Joon Ki at the physical education teacher’s position since he used to be a rugby player. As a family they emit a careerist aura and a vibe of an ongoing expectation, something that makes Joon Ki uncomfortable around them.
Among the girls that admire Joon Ki’s appearance there’s a more daring one, Young Eun (Jo Bo Ah). She’s always trying her best to catch his attention and be around him. Hyper-energetic as she is, she manages to achieve her arch goal. The more time passes the closer they get and at the same time she becomes more straight forward towards him when it comes to her feelings. Even though it seems one-sided, she seems to wander around Joon Ki’s mind corridors, even at times when he’s intimate with his wife. A rainy day arrives and he remains at school awaiting for the weather to get better, Young Eun arrives soaked by the rain and she keeps him company. Joon Ki’s willing to offer her some clothes and while she’s changing the jacket’s zipper doesn’t seem to work. They get closer and the first time he manages to dodge his desires, although a thunder cuts off the school electricity. Young Eun hugs him in fear and this time he can’t pull back, they cherish each other’s lips in the dark and it’s about time for things to get complicated. Joon Ki doesn’t want to ruin his marriage and lose his job and he asks her to keep the incident between them a secret. Enamored by the moments they shared, Young Eun shares her thoughts in her personal blog and soon students and teachers start making assumptions about Joon Ki and her. Young Eun reassures them that the text was fictional, but Joon Ki keeps his distance from her. The more he tries to avoid her the closer she tries to get to him and his wife. Everything that was pure and burning twice as love within her heart turns into a flaming obsession and the overall situation turns into a nightmare with unexpected twists for Joon Ki and his wife.
Innocent Thing has been directed by the highly-acclaimed Kim Tae Gyun of A Millionaire’s First Love, Temptation of Wolves, Crossing and A Barefoot Dream fame. You should expect by now beautifully filmed scenes and dazzling visuals doing justice to every single scene. The way the camera follows the characters and at the same time the way it depicts their position in the surrounding environment is magnificent whether the scene takes place at school, a rooftop, a room, etc. Whenever required there’s a distinctive distance factor between the audience and the characters based on the landscape. Perspectives and angles along with the closeups depict vividly the characters’ emotions and reflect everything they want to bring to the surface. The lighting factor is well-executed and it shines in specific scenes through its absence without losing the focus on the characters. Director Kim Tae Gyun worked with scriptwriter Lee Sung Min with Innocent Things being his first solitary film-writing attempt and even though the scenario isn’t the most innovative it flows naturally with absorbing twists, without losing its consistency in almost two hours of play. He performed a really good work in presenting the characters and the way they interact with each other, emphasizing on the two main figures and the secondary roles, Seo Yeon and Joon Ki’s friend for years, teacher Min Joo (Lee Do Ah). As for the supporting roles, they serve their purpose really well, without appearing much, only whenever needed. Although i would like to know more about Young Eun’s background, it’s a part of the story that remained in the shadows and i consider it essential for that specific character’s state of mind.
It might hold a romantic aura, although from the moment the clouds hide the sun it steadily progresses into a psychological thriller full of obsessions and the suspense factor is omnipresent in the overall ambiance. Heartrending sometimes, but mostly emotionally raw and realistic, it dives deep into the characters’ distorted psychology due to the various turn of events and the impact they have on both themselves and the way they interact with each other. One thing is for sure, it never loses its intensity and keeps the audience following its footsteps for nearly two hours without losing their interest due to the various plot twists that take part from time to time. The few mature scenes that take place serve their purpose well in terms of scenario and enrich the realistic factor even more whether it’s in one’s dreary mind or in reality. I wouldn’t say that there’s lots of humor in Innocent Thing, there’s no space for humor to blossom through its overburdened aesthetic. However, the scene with Joon Ki smoking and holding the cigarette with chopsticks in order to keep it a secret from his pregnant wife was pretty awesome! I’ll keep it in mind in the vast future.
Jo Bo Ah is astonishing in her role as Young Eun, she’s so much into the refreshing and energetic school girl figure and she depicts it vividly. Her enthusiasm and shivering love are all over the place, you can sense it in the way she stares at Joon Ki, in the way she’s all around him and through her lines. What’s amazing though is her steady transformation from a glowing and bright person into an obsessive shadow of herself. It’s not something that happens overnight, you watch her character’s progress step by step through her words and actions, the change of seasons within is wonderfully transmitted through her interpreting. Jung Hyuk is highly representative of his role as well. The soon to be father teacher that keeps breaking the hearts of young girls at his presence finds himself in an awkward situation he would never expect. The effect of his actions would turn out to be far away from logic’s patterns and soon enough the unexpected started unveiling its hidden cards one after the other, with him being unable to neither keep up with the pace of the events nor predict what was going to come up next. Sun Woo Sun as Joon Ki’s wife presents really well a pregnant woman’s figure that suddenly finds herself in the middle of events contradicting her so far unparalleled happiness. One after the other the pieces in the mirror start to crack and along with them her fragile world. Lee Do ah is the missing link that appears every now and then to keep up the pace of the story but also enlighten some shady parts in the scenario, seeming like a scapegoat at times.
Innocent Thing was a pleasant cinematic surprise no matter how gloomy it might get. Its realistic and raw most of the times but also bright aesthetics were summoned perfectly by director Kim Tae Gyun with Jang Hyuk and Jo Bo Ah and the rest of the cast bringing to the surface in an unerring way everything Lee Sung Min wanted to preserve through his script and the floating twists. Innocent Thing is a powerful collaboration of everyone partaking in this attempt, full of intensity breaking apart your tranquility on a widening trench of suspense.