HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Beauty Inside
HTS Overall Score:73
I’m a sucker for a good romantic drama, and have no qualms about saying that. I can smile and dream of love everlasting with the best of them and not feel a minutes remorse over the fact that I’m supposed to like things with explosions and death plastered all over them. Couple that with the fact that I’ve been a lifelong fan of Asian cinema and “The Beauty Inside
” was something that I was really hoping that I would like. In fact I had been hearing from other people that I trust that this one would be right up my alley, and they were right. There’s some superficial flaws to the movie. Mainly that it drags a bit near the center but it’s sweet, poignant and sometimes quite funny in its effort to blend a little bit of sci-fi/fantasy in with the traditional romantic genre.
Have you ever gone by a mirror and looked into it just to see what you looked like? I’m sure that many of us do this regularly and without any conscious decision in the action. In fact looking at ourselves in the mirror is about as common as putting on shoes or smiling at someone who waves at you. It’s involuntary and natural. What would happen if you looked into the mirror and were never quite sure WHAT you would look like. Well, for Woo-jin that’s a reality every single day of his life, for ever since he was 18 years old Woo-jin has woken up with a different body every single day since he turned 18. That means every day he may wake up a literally different person on the outside. One day it’s an old lady, the next it’s a 17 year old boy, next it’s a Chinese guy, then it may be a Korean pretty boy. For the last 12 years his mother has hidden him away from the public eye with only his best friend Sang-baek (Dong-Hwi Lee) as his sole confidant.
Living as a shut in carpenter of fine furniture, partnered with Sang-baek, Woo-jin has come to terms with the fact that he’ll never be able to find love like normal people, but that longing is still there. That longing turns into an unrealistic hope when he sees a young clerk by the name of Yi-Soo at a local furniture store. Coming in each day he purchases a different piece of furniture so that he can be around her, slowly working up the courage to ask her out. Finally he does so and scores a wonderful date from Yi-Soo. HOWEVER, he’s faced with the horrible realization that he probably won’t have another due to changing faces in the next few hours. Realizing that it’s falling asleep that causes the change, Woo-jin stays away by force feeding himself stimulants in an effort to keep dating Yi-Soo as much as he possibly can. It’s obvious from the get go that this plan is destined to fail, but he gives it a magnificent try.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64202[/img]After the change back to another face when he can’t keep his eyes open any longer, Woo-jin tries to go back to a normal life while Yi-Soo wonders why her boyfriend stood her up. Finally he can’t take it any longer and confesses to Yi-Soo his true condition. Naturally she doesn’t accept it at first, but soon can’t come to the realization that anything else is possible. This all happens at the hour point in the movie and acts as one of the biggest climaxes of the film. After that we see Yi-Soo and Woo-jin hammer out the intricacies of dating someone who doesn’t look the same from day to day. Everything is fine at first, but soon things start to happen. The psychological effects of Yi-Soo trying to cope with dating the same person, yet not being able to recognize them every day, overtakes her. She resorts to taking anti psychotics to try and keep her sanity but it’s a losing battle. Realizing that it’s painful for Yi-Soo, Woo-jin has to make a very painful decision. Does he stay with the woman he loves and watch her suffer? Or does he slip away into the night and live a life of loneliness and allow her psyche to heal?
“The Beauty Inside” is a sweet love story that manages to twist in a fascinating sci-fi to the tale that is both heartfelt and satisfying. I read a few comments by other critics back when it was first coming out that they were dissatisfied with how they treated a transgender type character and I honestly am puzzled by those criticisms. I didn’t think the focus of Woo-jin was about transgender or waking up as a girl even though he was born a boy. Rather it was something different in my opinion. What we are watching unfold is a person whose physical identity is not defined day to day. He is just as confused about waking up a different person on the outside as everyone around him. He never can trust the mirror and he is unsure about what the next day brings. Instead we see a person who has a myriad of physical forms but is the same person on the inside. His love between Yi-Soo and himself is a journey in understanding that revelation. Whether Yi-Soo can see past the different shapes and forms in front of her and see the person within, and whether Woo-jin can become comfortable in “other” people’s skin.
Woo-jin was played by well over 100 actors and actresses portraying the same character over the course of the 2 hour and 8 minute movie, so it’s hard to specifically pinpoint which was the BEST actor. Each one of them added a different flair to the character, but was well crafted enough that you could recognize him no matter what the face. Yi-Soo was sweet as could be and while sometimes I felt the movie could easily have been trimmed down another 20 minutes or so and not have suffered, I really enjoyed the chemistry between her and Woo-jin (no matter his form).
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64210[/img]“The Beauty Inside” comes to Blu-ray with a very satisfactory 2.39:1 AVC encoded transfer that is very stylistic. Colors are warm and almost overly rich, with a sort of hazy glow to them that gives the film an almost surreal feeling. Facial close ups and long shots alike look equally soft, with sometimes sharp centers of the face, but the edges will look almost like a heavenly glow is encompassing them. Blacks are deep and inky, and actually really nice, but they suffer from the obligatory banding that comes and goes throughout the film. It’s never overly aggressive, but if you know what to look for the gradient banding is obvious in many darker scenes (and even some of the boosted contrast scenes as well). It’s a nice looking stylistic picture, and fits the mood of the movie quite well.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=64218[/img]The Korean 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is well meaning track that does a solid job for the job at hand. It’s never a wildly dynamic track, but it handles the vocals and surrounding sounds as well as one might expect for a drama. There’s an opening scene of the film where Woo-jin and Sang-baek are at a club that really opens up the sound stage and gives us some throbbing bass and active surrounds, but for the most part the track is rather front heavy. The vocals are always crisp and clear, locked up front in the center channel as they should be. The balanced is well done and there is even some random city ambience that comes through the surrounds at time. LFE is mainly used as a backup to the score or a few crashing chairs, with the occasional hard hitting bass line such as the opening club sequence when it really wants to flex its wings. A simplistic track that really is a genre style, the 5.1 experience is more than satisfying.
“The Beauty Inside” has a few flaws, mainly due to the bloated mid-section of the film after the initial climax after the pair begins dating, but also with the glossed over issues related to Yi-Soo’s mental collapse. It’s not really stated clearly whether her illness was a symptom of his condition and being near him, or whether her sickness was a result of the mind trying to cope with loving the same person but seeing so many different faces. I felt that bit could have been explained a bit better, but overall I REALLY enjoyed the film It left me smiling at the end and really loving the characters themselves. By the end I honestly just wished for a few more minutes of the movie and had to watch it twice over the weekend I enjoyed it so much. While there’s some technical issues I can’t deny, I still have to recommend the movie whole heartedly.
Starring: Hyo-ju Han, Seo Joon Park, Juri Ueno
Directed by: Jong-Yeol Baek
Written by: Seon-jeong Kim, Jeong-ye Park
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Korean: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Korean DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Runtime: 127 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 2nd 2016
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