Hyeon-soo (played by Kim Soo-hyun-IX) is a laborer. Joo-hee (played by Kim Joo-ryeong) is a yoga instructor. They've been married for two years now. There is nothing terribly dramatic in their lives, no looming menace that seriously threatens to destroy their love. In fact, there isn't anything terribly exciting about "Sleepless Night" really. Large portions of this film are just Hyeon-soo and Joo-hee talking to each other, at home casually.
And yet watching these scenes, these intimate moments, I felt a profound sadness rise up in me. The love "Sleepless Night" discusses is not something seen very often in narrative fiction, where conflict by definition drives the storyline and often confuses the idea of romance into something exciting. Hyeon-soo and Joo-hee are just normal people living normal lives. And this just so happens to involve a great deal of trust and comfort.
The tone this film achieves is perplexing. For significant portions of it Hyeon-soo and Joo-hee are either naked or wearing just a single article of clothing. This is because, at home, they feel most comfortable dressed this way. Hyeon-soo and Joo-hee are not sex maniacs- yes they enjoy their intimate nights together but outside of that moment there's no sense that these two are defined by their bodies. The camerawork has no sexual overtones, and as a result we see these two the same way they see each other- in a fully relaxed calm, practically serene state.
It's common advice to tired married couples to keep going on dates. To keep that spark alive. And it occurred to me that Hyeon-soo and Joo-hee, while apparently having the perfect marriage, still do that. But it completely lacks the connotations that the advice implies- there's no fear, no desperation, and disappointment only comes when the moments of intimacy are impeded. Because that's what important- it's not doing something fun that matters, it's being able to appreciate doing something fun all the more because that other person gets it.
Although even to describe it as a perfect marriage is misleading. I'm having trouble getting across just how alien these concepts are- practically all specific language tries to break down this kind of love into sample categories, simple words that can easily be understood. That kind of task is a fool's errand compared to the beauty of actually seeing this couple on screen, and the idea just suddenly clicking. The notion really truly coming to mind that this is true love, and that it's such a beautiful amazing thing that there's not much else to say.
"Sleepless Night" is lacking in terms of cinematic qualities- the movie's not in widescreen, and the conflicts are too light to sustain a strong traditional narrative. The ending, too, is surprisingly abrupt, and resolves relatively few plot threads. But then after all, isn't that just what life is? Dangling plot threads that we may or may not ever solve depending on when we might get the chance? Living life according to traditional story structure is not a particularly satisfying gambit- not when compared to living a life of comfort and love.
Review by William Schwartz
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] "Sleepless Night""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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