Saturday, October 01, 2016

The Beauty Inside/Byuti insaideu (2015)

Woo-jin has a distinct problem:  Every time he wakes up, he has a new body.  He could be young or old.  He could be a man or a woman.  He’s usually Korean, but he could be of any race or ethnicity.  He doesn’t have any control over what he’ll look like when he wakes up.  It starts on his 18th birthday, at which point his mother withdraws him from school.

Woo-jin is pretty much withdrawn in all other respects, as well.  He has a job designing furniture, which he can do without going out.  He has the help of a childhood friend, who accepts Woo-jin‘s condition.  Each night, Woo-jin goes home.  When he wakes up the next morning, he goes through a wide assortment of clothing to find something that fits.  He has a Brannock device to help with shoe size and another device for glasses, if he needs them.  He manages to get through each day just fine.

Then, he meets Yi-soo.  He falls in love with her, but can’t bring himself to ask her out.  It’s hard enough when you have the same body.  How would he explain to her that he’ll be a different person the next day?  He decides to at least try, hoping to stay awake the rest of his life.  That goes as well as you might expect.  She pushes him away at first, but comes to accept him for who he is.  She doesn’t seem to mind the different bodies.  Her biggest problem is knowing what he looks like.

This is where I thought the movie didn’t live up to its potential.  Woo-Jin does nothing to explore the new bodies that he has.  There’s no commentary on what it might be like to be a woman for the day, other than his friend awkwardly hitting on him.  Yi-soo doesn’t seem to have a problem with her boyfriend being a woman.  The main issue is that her coworkers think she’s kind of easy because she appears to have a new boyfriend every day.  This is really the only source of stress for her. If it was hard for him to approach her, it’s impossible for her to tell her friends and family.  There are a few scenes where Woo-jin goes home with someone, before he starts dating Yi-soo.  Even with this, his only imperative is leave before the woman wakes up.

There’s no mention of how or why Woo-jin gets different bodies.  We don’t actually see it happen, but Yi-soo does get to witness it once.  It also happens on a train and no one seems to notice, so we’re left to assume that it’s painless and inconspicuous.  The only constant is that there seem to be no permanent consequences.  He gets a tattoo that seems to disappear from subsequent bodies.  However, there’s no mention of him having broken bones or anything serious.  He never has missing limbs.  He never has any sort of medical or psychological condition.  The only thing he has to deal with is varying eye sight and shoe sizes.

He does record many of his new faces, mostly for himself.  I suppose it would have been possible for him to set up a camera to record a transformation or have his friend do it, at least so that he might have proof, but this is never brought up.  It’s not even mentioned in the context of not wanting to be tested by doctors.  For that matter, it’s never mentioned what he does for identification.  He drives, but I’m not sure what he did for a license.  He moves to the Czech Republic, but there’s no mention of what he does for his travel papers.  (It’s possible that he drives without a license or has some way of creating a new one for each face.  As for the passport, it’s also possible that he entered the country illegally.)

In many respects, the movie could have done more, even if it was only a little more.  The movie focuses primarily on the romance and associated difficulties between Woo-jin and Yi-soo.  Part of the issue for me might be that the movie is Korean.  I’m sure that there are cultural differences I’m not picking up on.  I spent a lot of the movie wondering if the changing bodies were supposed to be an analogy for something or if they were just supposed to be a unique obstacle for Woo-jin to have to deal with.  Is it supposed to be some sort of commentary on how people change in a relationship?  Is it supposed to show how difficult it is for men to approach women?  Or is it just supposed to make it harder for Woo-Jin to approach Yi-soo?

The movie is based on an American Web series that I seem to have missed.  I think that someone saw this and simply tried to get a feature-length film out of it.  It’s not a bad movie by any means.  It was just over two hours and didn’t drag at all.  It does make you wonder how you would handle having different bodies all the time.  Woo-jin seems to handle it well.  Ironically, Woo-jin makes custom furniture which he can never use, himself.

IMDb page

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