Now in his 40s, Sung-hoon (Oh Chang-kyung (오창경) still desperately fights to achieve his dream of being a film director. Yet success constantly eludes him, forcing him to take menial jobs while suffering from abject poverty as he bids to get his projects made. Such a lifestyle would not be so bad, if not for Sung-hoon’s recent marriage to younger Thai woman Pan (Cho Ha-young (조하영). As Pan diligently studies Korean and the couple strive to better communicate with each other, the economic strain soon puts their relationship in jeopardy. Fighting hopelessness and attempting to stay strong in the face of financial hardship, Pan soon becomes frustrated with Sung-hoon’s selfish ways and begins to dream of returning to Bangkok.
So Very Very (찡찡 막막) is an interesting perspective on interracial couples in contemporary Korea by director Park Jae-wook (박제욱). Typically, such representations involve a woman from a less economically developed nation seeking a more affluent, stable life through a union with a man from a stronger one. However, as with last years BIFF entry Thuy, So Very Very reverses such portrayals and as such is an empowering film for foreign brides.
Pan is very much the heart and soul of the film as she works hard studying the Korean language and to adjust to life in the country, while her husband selfishly forces them deeper into poverty through his stubborn refusal to get a job. Problematically, director Park attempts to generate a sense of sympathy for Sung-hoon by aligning the narrative with his perspective, however it is Pan’s frustrations that push the story into new and interesting territory. Pan’s development from bored foreign housewife to empowered, independent woman is compelling and the driving force of the film.
Ironically while Pan’s growth sets So Very Very apart from other films of its ilk, the casting of Korean actress Cho Ha-young as a Thai woman is a distraction, diluting the sincerity of the relationship as well as her own journey. While Cho performs the role competently, her obviously Korean appearance becomes evermore of an issue as she interacts with genuine foreigners from her language academy, and particularly during scenes with locals filmed in Thailand.
One if the interesting features of So Very Very is the manner in which Sung-hoon and Pan communicate, through an amalgamation of Korean, English and Thai. The representation is quite unique, offering a refreshing perspective on the difficulties of communication between newlywed interracial couples. Again however casting is an issue, as for actor Oh Chang-kyung his pronunciation and intonation during the interplay between languages is natural and instinctive, whereas for Cho Ha-young she is forced to engage in a ‘Thai performance’ of sorts, that ultimately detracts from the events that transpire.
So Very Very is an interesting perspective on interracial marriages in contemporary Korea. Director Park Je-wook reverses the typical trend of such films by crafting an empowering journey of development for the foreign bride, rather than merely portraying her as a victim of circumstance. However the attempt to make the selfish husband as a sympathetic protagonist, as well as casting and language issues, distract from the wife’s journey, resulting in an agreeable film.