Korean Movie Review – A Werewolf Boy (늑대소년X)

“A Werewolf Boy” first premiered at last year’s Busan International Film Festival before it went on to become a runaway success, demolishing everything in its path, including the James Bond juggernaut, “Skyfall.” According to Korean culture website Mwave, the film set a record for gathering the largest audience ever on the day of suneung, the college entrance exam, selling over 340,000 tickets. This is apparently a very big deal. Given that millions of Koreans have seen the film and it’s been accepted into countless festivals around the world, I was very much looking forward to seeing it.

The film opens up in present-day America where an elderly Soon-yi is expecting a phone call from her granddaughter in Korea. Instead, she receives some distressing news about her family home and must fly back to Korea at once. She is greeted by her granddaughter at the airport, and together they visit the childhood home.

Rewind 40 years to a time when, having lost her father, a sickly Soon-yi and her family move into their new home. To add to their misfortunes, they discover Cheol-soo, a savage teenager hiding in the barn who acts like a wild dog.

Soon-yi doesn’t take too kindly to Cheol-soo, but the more time they spend together, the more protective Cheol-soo becomes of Soon-yi, defending her from the family’s lecherous landlord. On one summer evening, the landlord takes things too far, striking Soon-yi and sending Cheol-soo into a frenzy where he transforms into a vicious werewolf. The villagers hear of the incident and call in external forces to take care of this strange situation. This is much to the dismay of Soon-yi, who can see through his hairy exterior and falls in love with the beast.

With its soft-focus shots and a savage teenager who really just looks like he came straight out of a Korean boy band, the film has clearly been made with high-schoolers in mind. But with the themes of long-lost love and the family unit at the film’s core, I can see why it has appealed to so many.

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