Burning movie poster
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Burning
Burning movie poster

Burning Movie Review

A weird loner falls for a girl who then friend zones him before disappearing in Burning, the slow-burniest of slow burn movies that somehow, shockingly, defies my short millennial attention span and proves to be a worthwhile if somewhat trying drama-thriller.

At two and a half hours long, Lee Chang-Dong’s movie, which primarily features scenes of Yoo Ah-in looking confused and little in the way of elevated tension or varied drama, is not a film for everyone. In fact, Burning is the kind of movie I’ve been known to hate—ones that draw out a fairly simple story over a long stretch of time, rely on nuance and little details to engage the audience, and take way too much time to get to the point.

And yet there is something alluring about Burning. Certainly Lee’s intimate approach to filmmaking, which brings forth the nuances of his characters in a patient, fascinating way, is a key ingredient. The movie is beautiful in its own gritty, up-close way, each scene perfectly painted to set up Lee’s end game. The acting is strong, too—even though Yoo’s character is pretty damn frustrating at times, he immerses himself in the role of a man-boy who becomes the unlikeliest of heroes, if “hero” is the right word. Jeon Jong-seo is terrific as Hae-mi, but it’s Steven Yeun (Glenn from “The Walking Dead”) who steals the show as a confident, talkative and potentially sociopathic elite. Yeun is both engaging and chilling, a direct and assertive personality who stands as a perfect contrast to everything else in the movie.

Burning could have been 30 minutes shorter, and really, it’s Lee’s decision to draw his plot out over such a long running time that is its biggest disadvantage. The movie is otherwise without any major flaws, but it’s as if Lee purposeful wanted to make his story as inaccessible as possible. Many will find Burning tedious, and that’s a shame because it has a lot going for it.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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