Kim Tae-yong (김태용) is one of the few directors working in the Korean film industry who actively gives women a ‘voice’. Rather than define female protagonists through relationships or position them as objects/commodities, director Kim’s films are consistently compelling through the articulation of fully-formed women’s roles.
You Are More Than Beautiful (그녀의 연기) fits very much within such a framework. Indeed, the Korean titles literally translates as ‘Her Performance‘, an ironic title referring to both the director’s sensibilties as well as Gong Hyo-jin’s (공효진) outstanding acting talent. The 25 minute Hong Kong co-production is a highly charismatic short film, and despite the limited time frame manages to portray a lovingly nuanced and very entertaining romantic tale.
Upon learning of his terminally ill father’s condition, Jeju Islander Cheol-su (Park Hee-soon (박희순) must quickly return to his hometown to say a final farewell. However, wishing to show his father that he will be taken care of, Cheol-su hires an actress, Yeong-hee (Gong Hyo-jin), to act as his fiancee. Upon meeting the actress at the airport, Cheol-su quickly discovers Yeong-hee’s incredible positivity and charisma as she tries her utmost to fulfill her role.
First and foremost, the reason You Are More Than Beautiful is such a lovely short film is due to the superb performance of Gong Hyo-jin. From the moment she enters the film at the airport through to the final credits, the actress is constantly charismatic and it’s impossible not to be won over by her positivity. The title is particularly apt as Gong Hyo-jin is indeed very attractive, yet that is not what defines her character. It is Yeong-hee’s indomitable spirit and her cheeky-yet-playful personality that makes her so compelling to watch. Whether taking pictures in the countryside to reinforce the charade, or simply having a conversation to discover Cheol-su’s personality, Yeong-hee is a beautiful person both inside and out. Yet where the protagonist really shines in in meeting her fake fiancé’s terminally ill father. Her rendition of traditional Korean opera, as well as her interactions with the elderly gentleman, are a joy to behold due to the poignancy and heartwarming comedy embodied by the actress.
Actor Park Hee-soon also provides a great foil as stoic and sombre Cheol-su. The reason for his melancholy seems to go beyond his father’s illness, with the washed out colour palette conveying his depression well. Watching Cheol-su’s reluctance to engage with Yeong-hee’s positivity is wonderfully entertaining, as her zest for life slows chips away at his cold exterior yet he still attempts to keep her at a distance. The mismatched couple convey more heart and emotional connection than most films manage in three times the length, which is an incredible feat.
Director Kim has stated that prior to filming You Are More Than Beautiful, all he prepared were the camera and the cast. This is quite surprising as the cinematography is very attractive throughout the film, particularly the manner in which the natural beauty of Jeju Island is captured. The roads and paths, as well as the horse farm, highlight the unspoiled nature of the island and as such conveys the romanticism with which Jeju has become renowned. Similarly, while the great outdoors looks gorgeous, director Kim employs some wonderful symmetrical shots to emphasis different stages of the evolving relationship between Yeong-hee and Cheol-su to great effect.
Yet despite such praise, the film isn’t quite perfect. It’s a credit to director Kim and the actors involved that although a lot of events occur during the 25 minute running time, there is still a desire for more. This certainly could have been achieved with more development ascribed to Cheol-su, whose character isn’t as fully-formed as Yeong-hee. Yet with Gong Hyo-jin on such amazing form it is entirely understandable, as her enthralling charisma and grace make the film so compelling.
You Are More Than Beautiful is a delightful short film by director Kim Tae-yong. As one of the few directors in the Korean film industry creating fully-developed female roles his films are always interesting, and actress Gong Hyo-jin takes full advantage of the opportunity to perform her acting talent. Throughout the film she is utterly compelling and wonderfully charismatic, living up to the title as her passion for life and positivity make her more than an attractive women. A lovely short film.