After his debut, “Eighteen,” which evoked youthful impulses with electrifying authenticity, South Korean helmer Jang Kun-jae’s follow-up, “Sleepless Night,” initially seems as staid and uneventful as the marriage of the thirtysomethings he depicts. Yet “Night’s” unassuming brilliance lies in the lyricism of love itself, which it tenderly infuses into every precisely framed and edited shot of the most quotidian activities. Despite its thrift and brevity, this artfully spontaneous divertissement, which received fest awards at Edinburgh and Jeonju, deserves more critical attention.
Pic imperceptibly penetrates the cozy neighborhood of factory employee Hyun-soo (Kim Soo-hyun) and his yoga-instructor wife Joon-hee (Kim Joo-ryoung), building pleasurable momentum from their ups and downs (a birthday party, work hassles, speculation about having babies) that are universal yet deeply personal to the protags. Daydreams and nightmares suggest subconscious anxieties, revealing a rippling emotional current beneath the characters’ daily pleasantries. Thesps wear their roles like a second skin, sans makeup, just as the basic HD tech package re-creates the intimacy of a video diary. Excerpts from Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” imbue intimate moments with a serene, contemplative air.