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Weekend Watch: “Confession” (2022)

The 2022 film Confession, starring So Ji-sub, Kim Yun-jin, and Nana premiered in March at the Fribourg International Film Festival. It went around the film festival circuits where it won the Best Director Award for Moon Jong-seok in the Fantasporo-Oporto International Film Festival. It was only released in theaters in South Korea in October 2022. While many thrillers tell you what you’re in store for right away — it’s a slasher flick or a stalker movie, for example — there are also thrillers that hold their cards close to their chests for as long as possible, and that’s what makes snowy chiller Confession so effectively intriguing all the way through.

GwenchaNoona | The Weekend Watch: "Confession" starring So Ji-sub, Kim Yun-jin and Nana

The Plot

So Ji-sub plays Yoo Min-ho, an adulterous husband who is accused of killing his mistress Kim Se-hee, played by idol-actress Nana. He and his lawyer Yang Shin-Ae (played by Korean-American actress Kim Yun-jin known for her role in American TV series Lost, 2004-2010) must now find a way to prove his innocence. The case is turning out to be very difficult as the room Min-ho was in, was locked from the inside.

GwenchaNoona | So Jo-sub in "Confession"

And while the film is so much more, that is all that can be said without revealing any spoilers.

The Review

The film starts out slow and brings you right into familiar infidelity territory. Yoo Min-ho shows very little scruples as he juggles his relationship with his wife played by Hwang Sun-hee and his lover Kim Se-hee. And the audience would immediately wonder if they bought into yet another scandalous adulterous affair that is more at home in a makjang series. But then he takes a drive with Se-hee down a long, winding road that begins the well-crafted story, taking all of us along for the ride.

GwenchaNoona | So Jo-sub and Nana in "Confession"

The writing in this film is exceptional. Based on the Spanish Film The Invisible Guest, it has been remade in Italian and two Indian films. And it’s easy to see why. It takes a while for the story to build up, but when it does, it masterfully weaves Min-ho’s reality and his lawyer’s conjectures making us wonder ourselves whose truth we are willing to accept. The solid verbal volleys between did-he-or-didn’t-he-do-it Min-ho and his crafty defense attorney Yang Shin-Ae are so intense, we often forget that most of the scenes are shot in a claustrophobic cabin in the middle of nowhere.

The incredibly beautiful but deadly snowscape lends a heightened bleakness to the story, reminding us that while a murder might be entertaining to the audience, it ruins the lives of those who are involved in it. The snow might be beautiful but it is also deadly. These lonely snowscapes are typical of the intricate and immersive viewing experience in most European psychological dramas, but Confession manages to feel distinct and stylish on its own. While the entire film already runs on a pretty nifty and intelligent premise, its stark cinematography makes it one of the more atmospheric and compelling movies of the year.

GwenchaNoona | snow-covered house in "Confession"

For a story that leans heavily on three main characters to power the show, the three actors — especially Kim Yun-jin — do a fantastic job in holding up the suspense and complexity of the story until the every end. So Ji-sub’s usual stoic exterior lends itself quite well to his role and Nana, who is usually confined to “pretty face” roles, reveals an edge here that k-drama fans usually don’t get to see.

GwenchaNoona | So Jo-sub and Kim Yun-jin in "Confession"

Most films that blitz through a suspenseful first act usually fall apart by the third act, but not Confession. The film also deftly throws you into corners of palpable confusion — no one is who they seem, and the things you had thought were true, often are upended minutes later. It keeps an oddly effective air of intrigue throughout the entire 100-minute runtime, and ties it all up elegantly in the end. That a director like Yoon Jong-seok, who developed the first two Along with the Gods blockbuster movies, can go from writing massive tales about the afterlife to a small tale of infidelity like Confession is a testament to his finely-honed visual style and smacks of a budding mastery in tension. Those are good enough reasons to take note of this film.

For all its casual cruelty and stylish twists, Confession is still a heartbreaking story of loss and betrayal on a claustrophobic scale. One can only hope that director Yoon and his excellent cast make a few more films in the same elegantly tragic vein.

Stream if you want to be surprised.

Skip if you have no patience for the tension to build up.

-by Barrio Chaebol and Seoul-lo

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