Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Both leads are excellent." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia International Film Festival

“It’s much easier for me defend you if I know the truth,” the lawyer (Kim Yunjin) says.

By this point, the big drama it over. The clamour of the press, the trial itself – and, of course, the murder. Yoo Min-ho (So Ji-seob), declared innocent but still under suspicion, has retreated to the family cabin high up in the mountains where he can escape from all the attention. It’s the place where he used to spend illicit hours with the dead woman, Kim Se-hee (Im Jin-ah), and it now serves as his sanctuary whilst he tries to get his head around the fact that new evidence has emerged and he might be prosecuted again.

He doesn’t know what the new evidence is. That’s partly why the lawyer is there. “I’m innocent,” he protests when she asks him what really happened, but she insists that nobody is ever completely innocent, and that if events didn’t unfold as the prosecution claim, she wants to know how they did unfold. What led to him waking up in a hotel room with Jin-ha, whom he claims to have split up with months earlier, lying dead on the bathroom floor and the police banging on the door? If his claim that somebody else was involved is true, how did that person get out of the room, given that it was locked from the inside? Something doesn’t add up, and she suggests that this may be because he’s hiding something else. Perhaps it has to do with the disappearance of a young man a few years previously.

Confession is a remake of Spanish film The Invisible Guest, but director Yoon Jong-seok very much makes it his own. The rock-crowned mountains and steep-sided vineyards of the Basque country are replaced by pine-clad peaks and shimmering icy lakes, making such a dramatic impression that although much of the action takes place within a single room (whilst referencing events in another) a sense of that landscape, and of the isolation to conveys, is ever present. There is almost a feeling of Scandinoir about the result, a coolly crafted thriller with characters who seem full of warmth, even though, as we will learn, some of them have done terrible things in cold blood.

Exactly who has done what takes its time to emerge. Yoo and the lawyer take it in turns to advance various theories, more then one of which fans of this genre might find themselves buying into before the problems they present are pointed out. Meanwhile, a complex backstory develops, inviting us to make assumptions which are subsequently challenged. There are, after all, just two people telling these stories, and everything we learn about others’ behaviour is filtered through one or the other of them.

One of the advantages of this format is that it conceals a multitude of sins. When something seems to happen too fast, too easily, too neatly, we don’t really know if it’s a plot contrivance or a flaw in the telling. Nevertheless, Yoon wraps it up nicely in the end with a scene which recalls two 1960 films by Alfred Hitchcock and René Clément. Both leads are excellent and bring us to this point with uncomfortable skill. To say more would be to risk giving away too much, but if you’re a fan of puzzles and polished whodunnits, this Fantasia selection will be right up your street.

Reviewed on: 02 Aug 2022
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A story about a man who has been pointed out as the culprit of a locked-room murder and his lawyer approaching the truth.

Director: Yoon Jong-seok

Starring: So Ji-seob, Kim Yunjin, Im Jin-Ah, Choi Kawng-il

Year: 2020

Country: South Korea


Fantasia 2022

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