Korean director Hong Sang-soo (or Sang-soo Hong) makes a very specific type of film. When sitting down to watch his latest film I did so not expecting to see something wildly different but to see what new spin he has put on his usual formula. I will write more about my favourite Korean director (we all have one) another today but for now let’s assess Right Now, Wrong Then using my Hong Sang-soo checklist (patent pending).
- ✅ – A director as a main character
- ✅ – A long scene of heavy drinking
- ✅ – A male character with a large, but fragile, ego
- ✅ – Handwritten title cards
- ✅ – Dialogue scenes above all else
- ✅ – A camera that zooms and pans rather than cutting to new angles
- ✅ – A day repeated to show an alternative iteration of events
Check, check, check, and check. This is possibly the most Hong Sang-soo film so far!
In Right Now, Wrong Then we see a famous film director (Jae-yeong Jeong) and an aspiring painter (Min-hee Kim) as they meet, spend the day together, and pass the evening getting foolishly drunk. We see their day from start to finish and then, at the film’s halfway mark, we start over again seeing the day once more but with slight differences. The second time round not too much has changed, much of the dialogue is intact and the camera has often only moved a few feet, but the way the characters act, and how they deliver their lines, is tweaked enough to give the second day a completely different feeling.
What Sang-soo does best is to create whole three-dimensional characters, put them together in a scene and just let them talk. In doing so he lets all drama, comedy, and emotion arise from the simple act of human interaction with no editing, special effects, or artifice getting in the way.
Min-hee Kim and Jae-yeong Jeong are a winningly mismatched pair who are equally strong and sensitive dependant on how the person they are with is treating them. By seeing them in two alternative versions of the same day we get to see multiple sides of their character’s personalities which are performed with seemingly effortless ease.
A charming film about humans and how a slight change in mood can affect your fortunes Right Now, Wrong Then gives everything we’ve come to accept from Hong Sang-soo.