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Burning 15 rating

Lee Chang-dong (Poetry) returns with this spellbinding, richly complex thriller about obsession, class conflict and suppressed male rage.

Thriller 2018 148 mins

Director: Lee Chang-dong


Jongsu’s (Yoo Ah-in) unremarkable day-to-day life is pleasantly disrupted when a chance meeting with quirky childhood friend Haemi (Jeon Jong-seo) sparks a promise of romance. Soon to depart on a trip to Africa, Haemi asks Jongsu to cat-sit, which he dutifully does, even though the animal remains stubbornly elusive (does it even exist?). Anticipating their reunion, Jongsu is surprised at the airport to find Haemi arriving with the charismatic Ben (Steven Yeun), whom she met on the trip. No match for the poised and obviously wealthy Ben, Jongsu’s jealousy at the shift in Haemi’s affections builds over subsequent weeks.

Based on a Haruki Murakami short story, screenwriter Oh Jung-Mi and Lee have fashioned a lean slow-burner: gripping, elliptical and intriguingly ambiguous. Pitch-perfect performances from the three leads are intimately captured by cinematograper Hong Kyung-Pyo, his camera also revelling in the visual poetry of every environment. With a missing girl, a mysterious cat, an arsonist and a possible murder, director Lee expertly controls the tension until the breathtaking, explosive finale.