Review: In Front of Your Face

Written and directed by Hong Sangsoo, Sangok manages her daily life with a sense of mindfulness while keeping a grave secret to herself, and she decides to meet with a younger director who asked her to join his project, and after they meet there is sudden rainfall and thunder. Starring: Lee Hye-yeong, Yunhee Cho and Hae-hyo Kwon.

Hong Sangsoo is a dedicated maker of understated cinema, his films focus on slower, intimate stories with fewer characters and In Front of Your Face is another example of that. However, it sadly doesn’t manage to build as much intrigue and complexity as he has previously. There are the beginnings of a compelling story and a fascinating character in Sangok (Lee Hye-yeong). The writing only finally lets her reveal more of herself when it’s too late in the game to do it justice, which is a shame to see. The slow pacing still works but it needed a bit of additional development to take this one further, because it definitely had more to give.

In that respect, the same can be said for Lee Hye-yeong’s performance, it’s great but there was room to take it further. As time goes on she brings out the more unpredictable qualities to Sangok and how her situation opens up her view of things, while still keeping others in the dark. There’s an alluring atmosphere to her performance, she has a solid presence even though she holds back for a large portion of it. Yunhee Cho and Hae-hyo Kwon also provide great support but there’s no denying that Lee Hye-yeong is the focus here.

Visually it also feels slightly off the mark, particularly with its cinematography which comes across overly bright and stereotypical. It’s missing out on a depth or more textured quality to provide a larger atmosphere on the whole. It’s potentially leaning too far into the simplicity, which instead of amplifying its characters and story in this case, begins to hinder them. It falls into a place of typical drama, which is not at all what it is, it just doesn’t provide enough room for its story to be explored further.

In Front of Your Face has the potential for a very interesting and compelling story but unfortunately feels like it finishes before we can really get into it. It starts opening itself up and revealing more layers so far into the film, there isn’t the time to do those themes justice. Lee Hye-yeong gives a great performance and she had so much more to offer with an intriguing spontaneity, recklessness and an interesting mix of both letting go and falling inwards. Aesthetically it feels overly simple, becoming stereotypical rather than bringing an elegance or hyper-focus. Sadly, it just doesn’t find the right rhythm.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

In UK cinemas from 23 September

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