Friday, January 13, 2017
You'll be totally beguiled by The Beauty Inside within the first two minutes. So the best thing you can do is to stop right here. Don't read the synopsis on Netflix or any other streaming site. Don't glance at the description on the back of the DVD case. Just watch it. Go ahead. I can wait.
You're back? See what I mean? That opening narration hooks you. It's been years since I remember hearing a setup so fresh and new ... and absorbing.
But in case you didn't take my advice, here goes: Gently easing himself out of a strange bed after a one-nighter, Woo-jin (Yeon-Seok Yoo is the narrator, and another 120-some actors play the part) lets you in on his secret. He wakes up every morning in a new body. Sometimes as a man, sometimes as a woman. Sometimes old, sometimes young. Mostly Korean, but sometimes a foreigner who can understand Korean but can't speak it.
Lifelong friend Sang-baek (Lee Dong-hwi) helps Woo-jin sustain a career as a designer of custom furniture, serving as a middleman between Woo-jin and his clients. But think a minute. It's a lonely life. He can roam the world anonymously, taking on a different persona each day. But what should he do when, visiting a furniture store, he sees Hong Yi-soo (Hyo-ju Han), a young saleswoman taking care to ask the buyer all the right questions. We see it, and he sees it: they are made for each other.
Even more refreshing than the story line itself is the complete absence of the expected Hollywood tropes. There's no attempt at a gibberishy science-fiction explanation. Woo-jin is not being pursued by shadowy government agents. He doesn't begin to progressively deteriorate into some many-headed creature. No, it's a love story, one that's a perfect blend of mirth and pathos.
The Beauty Inside is one of those rare works that manages to be both entertaining and thoughtful. If you haven't seen it, stop reading and go watch it. If you have seen it, go see it again.
Seon-jeong Kim, Jeong-ye Park