Woo-jin (voiced by Yoo Yeon-seok) is a man with a unique problem- every time he wakes up in the morning, Woo-jin is an entirely new person. Young, old, man, woman, beautiful, ugly, Korean, foreigner. To some extent there are advantages to this. We see early on that whenever Woo-jin hits the sweet spot of young / man / beautiful / Korean, he goes out with his buddy Sang-baek (played by Lee Dong-hwi) to hit the bars and get laid. One night stands are quite easy when a changing face makes it quite literally impossible for any woman to ever have any hope of finding him again.
The discomforting truth in this early scene is palpable- Sang-baek tells the truth, he strikes out. Woo-jin is dishonest, he gets laid. Changing face notwithstanding, when people see Woo-jin they see what they want to see. And the very fact that Woo-jin can only run this scam on the days that he's handsome in itself implies that Woo-jin's only value is skin deep, and the sex-induced self-esteem is hollow. For all practical intents and purposes these women are just like Woo-jin- a gullible person with a changing face.
Enter Soo (played by Han Hyo-joo). Woo-jin falls in love with Soo, somewhat counterintuitively, because she always treats him the exact same way, regardless of what Woo-jin's face happens to be any given day. That notion may not sound all that remarkable to you (Soo does work in customer service after all), but director Baek Jong-yeol and the various Woo-jins rather brilliantly communicate these interactions entirely through Woo-jin's worldview. To a man whose face changes every day, the notion of constance and unconditional kindness is immensely important.
What's more, the metaphor goes quite deep. Think about it. We all change our faces every day. We all wake up as a different person. It's a very slow process and it takes years for us to be able to see the difference, but it happens. Think about what this means in the context of a relationship. Think about what this means in your relationships. How well did it go when you or he pretended to be someone you weren't?
But what was it like when you and he were honest with each other? When you made the best effort you could under difficult circumstances? When you let him explain himself? When you gave him an answer he didn't want to hear, because as a human being, he deserves that much consideration? When you were able to look at the terrifying prospect of ending the relationship, not because of the faces you have today, but because of the faces you're going to have to look at in the future?
"Beauty Inside" is an exploration of love from this angle. It's beautiful, poignant, and technically speaking melodramatic but who cares? Woo-jin has to admit that he loves himself and that he loves the work he does in order to let himself get close to Soo. It's his willingness to risk emotional hurt that makes Woo-jin's gestures so powerful- just as it is Soo's sense of honesty to admit that she loves Woo-jin, no matter his face, which makes "Beauty Inside" a powerful love story well worth watching.
Review by William Schwartz
"Beauty Inside" is directed by Baek Jong-yeol and features Han Hyo-joo, Kim Dae-myung, Do Ji-han, Bae Sung-woo, Chun Young-woon, Park Shin-hye, Lee Beom-soo, Park Seo-joon, Kim Sang-ho, Chun Woo-hee and many more
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Beauty Inside""
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