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Innocent Thing - Movie Poster
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South Korea 2014

Thriller, Romance, Drama

Kim Tae-gyoon

Jang Hyeok
Jo Bo-ah
Seon Woo-seon
Lee Do-ah
Do Gwang-won
Jang Seo-kyeong

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Innocent Thing

Story: Joon-gi (Jang Hyeok) is a physical education instructor at a girls school and because of his looks he is very popular with the students. One of them, Yeong-eun (Jo Bo-ah), has fallen under his spell particularly strong and doesn't miss any opportunity to be near him. At first, Joon-gi is annoyed by the girl's advances, but at some point he starts to have problems getting her out of his head. Eventually, this leads to a kiss between the two. Joon-gi is married and his wife Seo-yeon (Seon Woo-seon) expects a baby, which is why he soon realizes his mistake and wants to end this "relationship". But Yeong-eun blackmails him and forces him to continue meeting her. The girl's obsession even extends to her taking private lessons from Seo-yeon just to be near Joon-gi, who now avoids her. While Seo-yeon suspects that something isn't right, Yeong-eun's jealousy of the teacher's wife becomes stronger and stronger so that Joon-gi even starts to fear she might do something stupid. And in fact the girl turns out to be very capricious, her love making her a real danger to Joon-gi's family.

Review: An affair with a schoolgirl, who eventually turns out to be a dangerous lolita, isn't really anything new, but director Kim Tae-gyoon in fact puts a lot of effort into bringing some color in a movie that easily could have been a shallow romantic flick or a drama that sits heavily on your stomach. The reason for that being that Kim approaches his film like shooting a psychological thriller which still doesn't go without a certain drama flair, yet refrains from becoming a tearfest at the end. Therefore, "Innocent Thing" is a surprisingly well-achieved mix of different genres, although there certainly is a lot to criticize about the characters who are going into different extremes. Somehow the feeling sticks with you that these individuals couldn't exist like that in reality and this takes a lot of credibilty from the thriller drama.

Innocent Thing - Film Screenshot 11

First, the movie starts like a romance that inevitably heads for drama. A schoolgirl has fallen in love with her teacher and develops an obsession. Soon some horror elements creep in and as things progress Yeong-eun turns out to be more and more odd and unpredictable, which makes for an adequate groundwork for a lot of thrills. Actress Jo Bo-ah up until now has only been known for her roles in some drama shows, but her performance is quite respectable. She embodies the innocent and yet sexually appealing. Something that Joon-gi, as well as most men, can't resist when the girl makes advances at him in a very obvious manner. What direction all of this is heading in is pretty apparent from the getgo, so "Innocent Thing" doesn't get any points for originality here.

Innocent Thing - Film Screenshot 12

Yet, director Kim Tae-gyoon, who already shot the truely awful romantic flick "Romance of Their Own" or "Crossing", has some interesting ideas. For instance, there is the wife who doesn't simply act like a victim, but who herself goes to some pretty extreme lengths to save her marraige. The extreme is accordingly something that runs through all the individuals and not only Yeong-eun, who becomes more and more dangerous by the minute and whose obsession and very presence is already nerve-racking. As mentioned before you have to somehow get used to the extreme acting of the individuals, because they aren't always believable. But to make up for this the director sketches a pretty complex picture when it comes to who is to blame for all the mysery. After all, it isn't that easy to make out who the actual victim is.

Jang Hyeok ("The Flu", "Windstruck") seems to be the character we are supposed to root for most of the time, since he is about to lose his whole familie, because of a small mistake - a kiss, which Yeong-eun almost forced on him -, and since Yeong-eun turns out to be a psychopath. Then again you have to ask yourself if the teacher shouldn't have nipped the girl's puppy love in the bud, especially considering that his wife expects a child. Any way you look at it, the question of guilt isn't easy to clarify and particularly the movie's last picture refers to this in a well-achieved manner. Furthermore, director Kim knows how to leave the viewer in limbo. Some scenes shown are after all just the product of someone's imagination.

Innocent Thing - Film Screenshot 13

Besides a bloody scene, which better had been left out, even the more as this would have made one of the characters less extreme and the film probably more complex, there are also a few appealingly executed sex scenes that have a strong erotic touch to them and aren't just unnecessary embellishment. The directing is particularly conspicuous concerning a few camera angles. There are scenes that make it pretty obvious that Kim Tae-gyoon wanted to experiment and not just deliver your usual drama/romance or thriller stuff. He deserves some praise for that, even the more as in general he succeeds in combining the different genres. In a certain way "Innocent Thing" is still predictable, though, and as already said struggles with its lack of credibility which isn't just the result of chance occurences but also of the extreme characters. However, the ending really manages to bestow some depth on the thriller, which is the reason for it to get a better rating than first intended.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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