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A Werewolf Boy - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2012

Romance, Fantasy, Drama

Jo Sung-hee

Song Joong-ki
Park Bo-yeong
Jang Young-nam
Yoo Yeon-seok
Kim Hyang-ki
Lee Yeong-ran
Yoo Seung-mok
Seo Dong-soo
Goo Bon-im
Lee Yeong-ran

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A Werewolf Boy

Story: Sun-yi gets a phone call about the sale of an old house which she inherited. She returns to South Korea and remembers her time there 47 years ago.
As a young girl Sun-yi (Park Bo-yeong), her mother (Jang Young-nam) and her little sister move into a house in the countryside. At the new place she learns for her diploma on her own, not attending university because she has health problems with her lungs. That's also the reason why her mother moved with her to the countryside. The few neighbors are very nice, but Sun-yi is still not really happy. She suffers from depression. However, one day she hears a sound from the barn and chases off something that appears to be a wolf. The next morning it turns out, though, that it was actually a young man (Song Joong-ki) she saw, who has grown up away from civilisation. The deceased previous owner of the house has apparently raised him along with wolves. From that day on Sun-yi's mother calls the wolf boy Cheol-su and takes him in until a home is found for him. Sun-yi is everything but pleased with this new housemate whose manners leave everything to desire, but soon she starts to connect with Cheol-su thanks to a obedience training guidebook...

Review: Movies that get a lot of hype are viewed especially critical by me. "A Werewolf Boy" is just such a case, even the more as it looks like a shallow romantic flick with two teenie stars involved. A wolf boy tamed by a girl and slowly starting to have feelings for her. Alas, how heartwarming... To my absolute surprise the two actors both turn out to be chosen very well. What first was considered a kitsch movie by me emerges as a very well acted romantic drama, without (!) any fatal illness. What the movie can instantly win you over with is its unusual mood which reminds us of that of a fairy tale. Reason for that are more than anything else the pictures that seem to glow from within. This may just be the technical result of post-processing in order to constantly remind the viewer that he is 47 years in the past, yet because of this the romantic film gains its very own special charm.

A Werewolf Boy - Film Screenshot 11

The peculiar dreamy mood, which takes us into a modern fairy tale, isn't the only thing the film can score with. The relationship between Sun-yi and Cheol-su is also one-of-a-kind. From initial antipathy affection arises and since the nature of the relationship is everything but that of two normal people, after all the wolf boy has never before lived in normal society, it is also very refreshing and refrains from displaying your typical romantic scenes. Cheol-su wants to be petted on the head if he has done something right, because he has been trained that way by Sun-yi. Full of expectation he stares at the girl and waits for her order to eat, he becomes clinging and shadows Sun-yi, except when she orders him to do otherwise. As strange as it might sound, in all of this resonates the honest devotedness and love of a dog to its master.

A Werewolf Boy - Film Screenshot 12

At first the wolf boy digs into his meals like a wild animal, and more out of boredom and anger about the unwanted guest than anything else Sun-yi learns how to raise Cheol-su. Those scenes are fantastically transported since they aren't just humorous but also poke fun at social norms and rules of etiquette. Thus, Sun-yi behaves extremely childish in one scene and when her family sees her like that she is so embarrassed that she would like nothing more than to sink into the ground, while the wolf boy is absolutely unaffected and doesn't understand at all, why someone would have to feel awkward. Accordingly, Cheol-su is somehow absent(minded), is standing outside the borders of society and at the same time he is the most honest and most present individual. The love story unfolds at a very leisurely pace and in a subtle way being based on more pure qualities than those we know from normal relationships. That's what's making them so valueable.

At all times Cheol-su keeps certain wolf traits. Of course there is also a certain individual that wants to destroy the idyllic family setting and the animal within the boy breaks free. The message that deep-seated patterns of behavior or instincts can't simply be shut off is appealing as well and gives the wolf boy more authenticity without the result of making him less likeable. Yet, there is one point of criticism: The decision to provide Cheol-su with super-human powers and his ability to actually transform into a wolf-like being in case he is unnecessarily angered, not really different from "The Incedible Hulk". A far-fetched explanation for that can be found, too, but without this fantastic trait the movie would probably have worked even better. At least this transformation only happens at night and the low budget doesn't become that obvious this way. Furthermore, you could argue that this also underlines the fairy tale nature of the movie.

A Werewolf Boy - Film Screenshot 13

Song Joong-ki ("Heart is...2") very easily could have looked ridiculous in his role, but he masters it with flying colors. Park Bo-yeong ("Speedy Scandal") also behaves in a very natural and likeable way, without really being that way in the common sense of the word. The chemistry between the two is excellent. However, big kudos go to director Jo Sung-hee who has already proven with his post-apocalyptic "End of Animal" that he is a moviemaker with a vision and he brings it to screen wonderfully with beautiful pictures in interaction with a well-achieved soundtrack. Pictures like that when Cheol-su is disoriented and panically running through a forest bathed in twilight with Sun-yi on his back say more than a thousand words of corny declarations of love and throw us into a fairy tale world in which everything is natural and pure. Nonetheless, there is also a certain melancholy and feeling of longing running through the movie which is especially reflected in the nicely done ending that allows different interpretations. This bittersweet taste and the extraordinary charm of the love story make "A Werewolf Boy" one of the best romantic dramas out of South Korea.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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