Written & Directed by Gina Kim
Produced by Joon-dong Lee, Chang-dong Lee & Andrew Fierberg
Released by Arts Alliance America
English & Korean with English subtitles
USA/South Korea. 102 min. Rated R.
Special Features: “Making of” featurette. Deleted scenes. Blooper Reel
With Vera Farmiga, Jung-woo Ha & David L. McInnis
Suburban housewife Sophie has nearly everything—good looks, wealth, and a handsome, successful husband—except that her Korean husband, Andrew, cannot seem to impregnate her with the child he so desperately wants. When he falls even closer to despair after the death of his father, Sophie takes drastic measures. While having a regular checkup at a fertility clinic, she overhears a Korean immigrant—with a striking resemblance to her husband—being rejected as a sperm donor due to his illegal status. Michael Nyman’s crystalline score trickles in as opportunity sets in, and Sophie follows Jihah to his grungy New York apartment in Chinatown. Her proposition: $300 every time he has sex with her and a bonus of $30,000 if she gets pregnant. Struggling to make ends meet, he accepts.
Steamy sex scenes between Sophie (Vera Farmiga) and Jihah (Jung-woo Ha) have garnered a lot of excitement by critics, but most of their sexual encounters occur before love enters the picture, and these are neither steamy nor comfortable to watch. The crucial business-like and matter of fact “love” making scenes leave you with a wad of discomfort in your stomach—Sophie urging him on despite the pain (“just keep going”), and Jihah cursing in Korean, “such fucking blue eyes” before turning his face away to complete the job. It all begins for the sake of Sophie’s husband, but when she and Jihah fall in love, she finally realizes her own desires.
Donning frilly costumes that channel 1950’s melodramas, Sophie appears as an outsider in her own home. She has no family of her own, no friends, and hardly fits in with her in-laws. Blonde and blue-eyed, she resembles a freakish imposter when seated amongst her husband’s Korean family, and when they pray for her to become pregnant, she watches the scene like a naïve foreigner—without a peep. It’s never very clear whether Sophie really wants a child. Everything she does is with her husband in mind, and when Jihah asks her what she wants she’s unable to answer. She says very little, in fact. Much of the film relies heavily on Vera Farmiga’s face, and she keeps such a tight lid on her feelings that it’s almost shocking when Sophie raises her voice or breaks down crying. And for a woman who doesn’t know how strong she is, even she is shocked.
The acting leans a tad close to being over the top at times, especially when the plot takes melodramatic turns. The love affair between Sophie and Jihah is never quite convincing, and neither is the fact that Sophie stays with Andrew for so long or goes through so much trouble to make him happy. These weaknesses in plot are enhanced by the fact that neither of the male performances are up to par with Farmiga’s. She carries the film, and she carries it well. Her performance of a woman removed from her feelings is both poignant and moving, and combined with the production design, Never Forever is a testament to the fact that digitally shot indie flicks can be both beautiful and polished. B. Bastron
July 16, 2008