Film Review: ‘Yourself and Yours’

Kim Joo-hyuck, Lee You-young, Kwon Hae-hyo, Yu Jun-sang, Kim Eui-sung.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5907916/

At least two female doppelgangers drink coffee and soju, flirt with various men, and spark gossip and mass confusion in Hong Sang-soo’s “Yourself and Yours,” a wise and gently absurdist allegory about how best to approach relationships. An inspired reversal of Luis Buñuel’s “That Obscure Object of Desire,” which had two different actresses playing the same woman, the film casts one actress playing multiple versions of herself — or so it would seem. Following last year’s exceptionally ambitious (and just plain exceptional) “Right Now, Wrong Then,” the film reps a confident return to the low-key pleasures of Hong’s recent work, graced by a swooning romantic spirit. While a slot in the New York Film Festival may help boost its profile, it otherwise stands to reach the Hong faithful down the expected festival and theatrical pipeline.

“Yourself and Yours” opens with Youngsoo (Kim Joo-hyuck) in emotional crisis. His mother is gravely ill, having gone nearly two full days without eating, and her mortal state has him thinking about Minjung (Lee You-young), the other woman in his life. Should he get married? His neighbor (Kim Eui-sung) laughs off the idea, calling him “clueless about women,” and relays a rumor that Minjung has been spotted drinking without him, despite their agreement that he would keep track of her alcohol intake. (Youngsoo limits Minjung to five glasses of soju and two beers a night, which is temperate only by Hong’s supremely boozy standards.)

Later that evening, Youngsoo confronts Minjung about breaking her promises to him, but she denies the rumors forcefully and leaves him on his own. From there, things get a little weird. When grey-haired writer Jaeyoung (Kwon Hae-hyo) recognizes Minjung at a coffee shop, she treats him like a total stranger, claiming not to go by that name. She appears several scenes later at a bar, where filmmaker Sangwon (Yu Jun-sang) eagerly makes her acquaintance, but once again, she refutes the claim that they’ve ever met before. By the time Youngsoo re-enters the picture, after fruitlessly searching for her at home and work, Minjung’s true identity is a question mark.

Puzzling over who the real Minjung is — or how many doppelgangers there truly are, if any — isn’t worth expending the mental energy. And that’s the underlying insight of “Yourself and Yours”: In a healthy relationship, sometimes it’s better just to let some things go. The multiple Minjungs act like a manifestation of Youngsoo’s insecurities and hang-ups, because he’s tortured by the thought of her violating his trust and drinking with other men. Hong advocates for a more liberated relationship, with the women, especially, unbound by their partner’s controlling impulses. When Minjung says, “Don’t try to know everything,” it doubles as a thesis statement.

Yet such insights fall lightly in “Yourself and Yours,” which sets the tone with Dalpalan’s jaunty score in the opening credits and never darkens, even with Youngsoo’s mother on death’s door. As Minjung (and/or her doppelgangers), Lee You-young is so charming and self-possessed around her suitors that a withering cut-down (“I’ve never seen a truly impressive man”) lands like a kiss. And when the liquor starts to flow, any lingering negative feelings dissipate in the buzz, like a bar confrontation that stumbles drunkenly into a male bonding session.

Hong doesn’t impose any structural gamesmanship on the film, and he only presses the central gimmick as far as it needs to go for Youngsoo and Minjung to sort through their relationship. Buoyed by Hong’s romantic optimism, the immensely satisfying conclusion hints at the possibility of love as a renewable resource, so long as both partners are flexible to different terms. “Yourself and Yours” asks the audience to take the same leap — best to keep an open mind and go with the flow.

Film Review: 'Yourself and Yours'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Masters), Sept. 13, 2016. Running time: 86 MIN. (Original title: “Dangsinjasingwa Dangsinui Geot”)

Production: (South Korea) A Jeonwonsa Film Company production. (International sales: Finecut, Seoul.) Executive producer: Hong Sang-soo.

Crew: Director, writer: Hong Sang-soo. Camera (color): Park Hong-yeol. Editor: Hahm Sung-won.

With: Kim Joo-hyuck, Lee You-young, Kwon Hae-hyo, Yu Jun-sang, Kim Eui-sung.

More Film

  • Vice Christian Bale Sam Rockwell Playback

    Berlin Adds 'Vice,' New Films by Zhang Yimou and Andre Techine to Official Lineup

    Five new titles, including the latest films from Zhang Yimou and Andre Techine, have joined the competition program at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. Adam McKay’s “Vice” will screen out of competition. “Vice” has already won a Golden Globe for star Christian Bale’s portrayal of former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and picked up six BAFTA [...]

  • Picture Tree Adds ‘Cold Feet’ to

    Picture Tree Adds ‘Cold Feet’ to Berlin Market Lineup (EXCLUSIVE)

    Picture Tree Intl. has added German romantic comedy “Cold Feet” (Kalte Füsse) to its market lineup at the Berlin Film Festival, where the sales agent will screen the film as a market premiere. Sony Pictures released the pic, directed Wolfgang Groos, in Germany on Thursday, and it garnered 100,000 admissions over its opening weekend. “Cold [...]

  • Neil Burger

    'Upside' Director Neil Burger Sets Sci-Fi 'Voyagers' as Next Project

    “The Upside” director Neil Burger is set to direct sci-fi thriller “Voyagers” as his next project. The film will be fully financed and co-produced by Stuart Ford’s AGC Studios, and produced by Burger’s Nota Bene Productions and Basil Iwanyk’s Thunder Road Films. AGC also handles international sales on the new film. Written and directed by [...]

  • Berlin: M-Appeal Acquires Panorama Title ‘Greta’

    M-Appeal Acquires Berlin Panorama Title ‘Greta’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    M-Appeal has acquired world sales rights to “Greta,” the feature debut of Brazil’s Armando Praça which will world premiere in this year’s Berlinale Panorama section. The Berlin-based film industry has also dropped an international trailer, to which Variety has had exclusive access. More Reviews Film Review: 'All These Small Moments' TV Review: HBO's 'Brexit' Produced [...]

  • Kew Media Boards Michael Jackson Documentary

    Kew Media Boards Michael Jackson Documentary 'Leaving Neverland' for International

    Kew Media Distribution has boarded controversial Michael Jackson sex-abuse documentary “Leaving Neverland” ahead of its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Kew Media has taken international distribution rights (excluding U.K. and U.S.) to the two-part documentary, which is a co-production of HBO and British broadcaster Channel 4. Directed by BAFTA-winner Dan Reed, “Leaving [...]

  • Nordic Film Market: New Pálmason, Hákonarson,

    Nordic Film Market Selects Latest Palmason, Hakonarson, Hafstrom, Ganslandt

    The 20th Nordic Film Market in Göteborg, unspooling Jan. 31-Feb 3, will showcase 16 works in progress including Hlynur Pálmason’s “A White, White Day”, Grímur Hákonarson’s “The County”, Mikael Håfström’s “The Perfect Patient” and Jesper Ganslandt’s “438 Days.” Iceland is well represented this year with top directors and festival darlings Pálmason (“Winter Brothers”), Hákonarson (“Rams”) [...]

  • 'All These Small Moments' Review

    Film Review: 'All These Small Moments'

    The magic of writer-director Melissa B. Miller Costanzo’s “All These Small Moments” can be found within the intimacy of the scenarios, the authenticity of her earnest characterizations, and the accessibility of the actors’ honest performances. In her deftly polished directorial debut, Costanzo dovetails the primary story about a teen’s coming of age with a secondary [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content