Seh-hee and Ji-woo have dated for two years; jealousy consumes her. She worries he will tire of her face. Then, she disappears. Telling no one, she goes to a plastic surgeon for a new face. Ji-woo has no idea where she is, although when he does respond to other women, someone unseen intervenes. Then, he meets See-hee, and although he tells her he misses Seh-hee, this new relationship blossoms into love. They talk at the same coffee house, visit the same sculpture park, and pose for the same photographs he did with Seh-hee. We know they are the same woman. Has this new face and renewed love made her happy? And what will Ji-woo do when he learns the truth? Is losing face losing self?Written by
In combining elements of sci-fi and fantasy with a thoughtful, contemplative study of human relationships, the Korean film, "Time," brings the adage "Beauty is only skin deep" to a whole new level.
When she begins to sense that her boyfriend, Ji-woo, may be losing interest in her, Seh-hee decides to undergo plastic surgery so radical that even he will not be able to recognize her. Her plan is to then insinuate herself back into Ji-woo's life under the guise of her new identity, hoping to stave off his growing indifference and, in so doing, give them what amounts to a second chance as a couple. Needless, to say, Seh-hee 's scheme does not work out quite as planned and she learns some pretty powerful lessons about the way true love actually works.
Although Seh-hee clearly believes that by altering her appearance she will be able to change her inner makeup as well, the truth is that she remains every bit as grasping, jealous, melodramatic and paranoid after the surgery as she was before. No amount of change in her looks can raise her self-esteem or make her any less difficult to deal with. Her boyfriend, meanwhile, becomes a pawn in her twisted game, as he is tricked into inadvertently rekindling a romance with a woman who carries with her all the same baggage he had so much trouble putting up with in the previous relationship (despite the fact that he genuinely loves her).
An attack on the looks-obsessed nature of modern culture, "Time" is not a "thriller" in the conventional sense of the term. It demands patience as it goes about the business of laying out its storyline and doesn't go in for a whole lot of fancy horror movie pyrotechnics to raise the audience's hackles. Instead, it relies mainly on subtle psychological insights to generate a feeling of imbalance and unease. Seh-hee is clearly mentally and emotionally unstable, and writer/director Ki-duk Kim's subtle, almost Pirandellian way of dealing with that madness makes it all the more disturbing.
Strong performances, steady direction, sharp cinematography and an unnerving view of human nature all combine to make "Time" an offbeat, memorable experience. Don't expect to jump out of your seat or bury your face in your hands during the course of this film - for in the case of "Time," the chills all take place in the mind.
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