Me And Me

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Me And Me
"Jung's feature début is packed full of twists but succeeds because of its focus on character - something that seems to remain consistent even when the characters' circumstances have changed." | Photo: Courtesy of Fantasia

Me And Me makes no sense. This isn't a critic's complaint - it's something that director Jung Jin-young openly acknowledges. There is no way to piece the story together in logical fashion. If this bothers you, stay away. If, on the other hand, you're interested in seeing where Jung's disjointed, dream-like vision can take you, you may find this Fantasia 2020 pick to be an intriguing mystery.

It begins with schoolteacher Soo-hyeok (Bae Soo-bin) and his wife I-yeong (Cha Soo-yeon), whose move from the big city to a small rural community initially mystifies the inhabitants of the latter, most of whom long to move in the other direction. They understand a little better when they realise that the couple have something to hide. Every night, I-yeong undergoes a mysterious shift of personality, essentially becoming a different person - sometimes with violent consequences. Worried that she might do harm, the villagers agree to accept the couple if they will, in turn, agree to be locked up in their house each night before the change occurs.

It's an arrangement that might have seemed smart at the time but results in tragedy when the couple's house catches fire and they have no means of escape. As the villagers frantically try to conceal the pact they made, city detective Park Hyeong-goo (Cho Jin-woong) arrives on the scene. He's immediately suspicious about the villagers' odd behaviour and reluctance to be interviewed. When they're out of the way, he decides to explore the burnt-out house, and it's here that we first get the sense of something odd occurring. Gradually, over the course of the next few days, Park seems to lose his identity. The villagers tell him he's not a detective but a primary school teacher himself. Is it part of some elaborate ruse? What about the deaths? What about the family he left behind in the city? Why does nobody, anywhere, seem willing to take his protests seriously?

To say too much more would be to spoil what follows. Jung's feature début is packed full of twists but succeeds because of its focus on character - something that seems to remain consistent even when the characters' circumstances have changed. It shifts genres as easily as it seems to slide between plotlines but Park's concern for justice and his longing to reconnect with his wife and children mean there's always something to root for. Kim Hyun-seok's cinematography draws out different aspects of the same spaces as the film's tone changes, so that even the identity of the locations is subtly altered.

How much of who we are is shaped by our external circumstances? Would we feel the same way about each other if the situations in which we met were different? At what point in life do we stop trying to go backwards and begin to focus on what we can do with what we've got? These are the questions that gradually take form in this bittersweet fable. Its shape may be unusual but Jung's style is assured. It will be interesting to see where he goes next.

Reviewed on: 11 Sep 2020
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Me And Me packshot
A police detective investigating a tragedy in a small town wakes up one morning to find he’s no longer who he thought he was – or so the locals lead him to believe.

Director: Jung Jin-young

Writer: Jung Jin-young

Starring: Bae Soo-bin, Cha Su-yeon, Cho Jin-woong, Jung Hae-Kyun

Year: 2020

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: South Korea

Festivals:

Fantasia 2020

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