Posted : 2012-11-15 17:33
Updated : 2012-11-15 17:33

'Werewolf Boy' - witty, tragic tale of romance

Park Bo-young, left, and Song Joong-ki star in a scene from "A Werewolf Boy," which is currently showing in theaters nationwide.
/ Courtesy of CJ Entertainment

By Baek Byung-yeul

This story is told through the recollections of an old woman who returns to her homeland 47 years after the events of the tale unfold. The narrative centers on two principal characters: a young boy Cheol-soo (Song Joong-ki) and Suni (Park Bo-young) a girl who befriends him. Suni moves to a remote valley with her family to undergo a period of convalescence after suffering problems with her lungs. On the night she arrives, she discovers a young boy (Cheol-soo) hanging around the cottage dressed in rags. Her mother decides to take him in until he finds a home, but Suni thinks the chances of anyone taking pity on him are poor because he cannot speak, and behaves like a wild animal.

However, to help him, Suni starts to train Cheol-soo with the help of a dog training manual and gradually they learn to trust one another. The boy develops unconditional love for the girl and this relationship provokes jealousy from Ji-tae (Yoo Yeon-suk), a rich man from Seoul who buys a cottage for Suni.

While there is love between the two, their relationship seems to resemble that between a pet and an owner rather than that of two lovers. Cheol-soo devotes himself to Suni, and she becomes his reason for living.

However, when Ji-tae tries to rape Suni, Cheol-soo shows his previously hidden wild nature as a killer werewolf. The disintegration of the relationship between Suni and Cheol-soo is a tragedy full of profound pathos.

Director Jo Sung-hee who studied design at Seoul National University and film directing at the Korean Academy of Film Arts first emerged on the domestic film scene after winning the Best Picture Award at Seoul's Mise-en-Scene Short Film Festival and the Third Prize Cine Foundation at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2009 with "Don't Step out of the House" (2008).

"Through the companionship and love between these two characters, I'd like the audience to recognize an aspect of humanity which is rarely found," said Jo, at a press preview.

The whimsical sense of humor that characterized Jo's previous works is also distilled into the film. The overall direction is somewhat melodramatic but provides space for moments of comic style that contrast effectively with the scenes of horror and mystery.

Jo succeeds in stimulating and reaching out to the audience in his first mainstream commercial film. In particular, the film has particular resonance when it shows the boy's socialization resulting from the girl's encouragement. It often arouses laughter, but most scenes focus on warm moments and intimate romantic lines often found in such fantasy films.

The last scene, during which Cheol-soo makes a snowman following his reunion with Suni after 47 years, is particularly moving.

"A Werewolf Boy" broke-even after 1.8 million people paid to see it, one week after its release on Oct. 31. There is speculation as to whether the film will break the record of "Architecture 101" (2012), the biggest Korean romantic movie box office success which drew an audience of above 4 million.

"A Werewolf Boy" is now showing in theaters nationwide. Rated 15 and over. Runs for 126 minutes. Distributed by CJ Entertainment.

The writer is an intern for The Korea Times.

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