Breathless (2008)

Directed by
Violence begets violence
Reviewed by Simon on 2013-07-04

Sang-Hoon is a debt collector and general thug for hire - a man who only knows how to communicate with other people through violence and abuse. He meets Yeon-Hee, a high school girl who surprises him by standing up for herself in the face of his intimidation, and the two form a sort of friendship. Through the course of the film we learn about the family history of both characters, and see how an upbringing full of violence and abuse has shaped their own behaviour, with the damage being passed on from generation to generation.

BREATHLESS is a raw film, full of brutality and misery, and more foul language than the subtitlers know what to do with (I am sure the original Korean dialogue is more diverse in its profanity than the subtitle track on the UK DVD might imply). The characters suffer, lash out, and cause more suffering in a vicious circle.

Writer/director/producer/editor Yang Ik-Joon also fills the lead role, though the spotlight is stolen by the more nuanced performance of costar Kim Kot-bi.

The film is perhaps overly grim and self-indulgent... whilst the possibility of of escape or redemption is dangled in front of the leads, the film seems too determined to focus on the self-propagating cycle of abuse to ever really believe that they will reach out and take it - it would have probably been braver and more interesting if it had decided to give the characters a bit more of a break.