A delicate look at not-so-delicate emotions, “Wanee & Junah” is a beguiling, if over-long, relationships movie that may alienate Western viewers with its candy-coated surfaces. That’s a pity as, though the pic has only a tiny market outside East Asia, it reps an impressively detailed feature debut by writer-director Kim Yong-gyun, who shows a talent for observing the grace-notes rather than major chords of human behavior. Local B.O. was so-so late last year.
Pic deals with a young woman physically in love with two men, one of them her younger brother. Wanee (Kim Heui-seon, from “Bichunmoo”) is a successful animator in her late 20s who lives with the easygoing Junah (Ju Jin-mo), a wannabe scriptwriter. When she hears her brother, Yeong-min (Jo Seung-woo, from “Chunhyang”), is coming back from Europe after a long absence, memories of their teenage years together come flooding back.The emotional square is completed when So-yang (Choi Kang-heui), an old school friend, comes to stay. At a drunken dinner, So-yang — who once had an unrequited crush on Yeong-min — warns Junah not to love Wanee too much. Junah uses the excuse of having to go to Seoul on business to spend some time away from her.
Film is often discursive over seemingly unimportant things, and could be cut without losing much plot; but that would dilute its special flavor, which springs from the accumulation of small details. Despite its title, pic is only peripherally about Wanee and Junah’s love for each other; it’s more about how no two people can love each other equally, and how feelings can never remain static over the years.
With its cute animated inserts (in watercolor style), and good-looking, glossy lensing (helmer Kim has also worked as a d.p.), “Wanee & Junah” may well be just too sweet for most Western tastes. Still, performances are all good, especially Kim Heui-seon’s soft-hard playing of the conflicted Wanee, and a nicely understated perf from Ju (“Musa”) as Junah.