Review by Sean Boelman
Initially presenting itself as something more than it actually is, Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo’s low-concept fantasy Yourself and Yours is really more of a quaint romantic comedy. And while there is a certain level of charm about the film, its structure is likely a bit too off-putting for most mainstream tastes.
The movie follows a couple as their relationship and lives are thrown into turmoil over rumors and secrets, sending them each into a rabbit hole of self-discovery and trying to find companionship and romance. Billed as a “comedic mystery”, perhaps a bit misleadingly, the film is more accurately described as a mistaken identity dramedy with a penchant for playing with the audience’s perception.
This mystery is ultimately more in the audience’s mind than anything else. In what is a very unorthodox narrative structure, a majority of the conflict comes in the first twenty or so minutes, with the rest of the movie being mostly conversational. After a while, it becomes clear that the film is enjoyed best if viewers stop caring about what is actually happening and focus on what is being said.
The central message of the movie involves the idea of the truth and its importance in a relationship. In a farcical way, Hong poses the question of whether or not the truth really matters in a relationship such as that being depicted on screen, and while audiences will almost certainly have a strong opinion about the matter, the film asks viewers to challenge their preconceptions.
However, with the ambiguity of the characters, it becomes difficult to form a legitimate connection with any of them. A majority of the strongest development comes in the second act, but that is when audiences will mostly be trying to wrap their heads around what is happening, and by the time the story reaches its resolution, it feels anticlimactic.
That said, the actors do a really solid job in their roles. Yoo-Young Lee is particularly impressive in her role that is spectacularly complex. Lee has to show a lot of range because of the demands of the character, and she pulls off every part of it in a believable yet intriguing way. Her chemistry with co-star Ju-hyuk Kim is also notable.
On a technical level, the movie is a bit rough as a result of its episodic nature. For the most part, the film is jumping between conversations featuring two or three characters. It’s a simple set-up, and it often works, but the cuts to black are sometimes jarring. On the other hand, the last sequence is excellent and makes one wish that Hong had consistently done a bit more.
Yourself and Yours desperately wants to be something special, but it doesn’t quite deliver. Still, thanks to some compelling dialogue, it’s worth watching if viewers can focus on what the movie has to say rather than what it is.
Yourself and Yours is now streaming online in partnership with indie theaters. A list of participating locations can be found here.