Happy End | Chicago Reader

Happy End

This finely drawn first-time feature and Cannes “Critics' Week” opener from Korean director Jung Ji-woo portrays matrimonial harmony gone awry. When a banker (Choi Min-shik) loses his job as a result of the early-90s recession, he turns to reading mystery novels and tries to make the best of his home life—his hardworking wife (Jeo Do-yeon) cares less about her husband and child than about sneaking out to be with the sweetheart she lost years earlier when he was drafted. A Western sound track that repeatedly uses Schubert's Piano Trio no. 2 is clearly meant to give a Kubrickian slant to the husband's bubbling, hazardous emotions, but Barry Lyndon this is not. When the hapless banker discovers evidence of the affair, the film veers into predictably pathological territory, but it's so well paced and the misogyny is so subtle (until a rather overblown climax) that it's easily mistaken for nuanced relationship analysis. Beyond a certain stylistic virtuosity, the only thing accomplished is a painful modicum of social commentary.

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