Jeong-wan (played by Lee Mi-yeon) is a freelance photographer currently having a love affair with married doctor Yeong-hoo (played by Kim Joon-sung). Jeong-wan's best friend Hee-soo (played by Lee Tae-ran) is herself married to Hyeong-sik (played by Yoon Je-moon). One might think that as a married woman Hee-soo would disapprove of Jeong-wan's behavior. To the contrary- Jeong-wan and Hee-soo are women of the modern age, who are so relaxed about frank sexual discussion they even watch pornography together.
"Love Exposure" is a cosmopolitan love story about nothing. In full cultural context, it's a Korean interpretation of commercialist Western sexual norms which are nowhere near as universal as we like to pretend, precisely because of some of the ethical problems posed by "Love Exposure" itself. Jeong-wan's relationship with Yeong-hoo is only plausible so long as it is unexamined. When Jeong-wan suggests to Hee-soo that Yeong-hoo is willing to divorce his wife, Hee-soo (rather correctly) points out that even if Yeong-hoo is telling the truth, how could Jeong-wan possibly trust a man who's an admitted cheater?
Note that Hee-soo's greater philosophical underpinnings aren't that robust either. Hee-soo's first response to her relationship crisis with Hyeong-sik is to pretend like she doesn't care, even when the impetus for this catastrophe proves to be an obvious sociopath. What's more, Hee-soo vents her frustration on Jeong-wan less by discussing betrayal and more by being mad that Hyeong-sik would risk their marriage over such unattractive bait.
Like most fiction that purports to show an honest view of the modern woman's sex life, "Love Exposure" fails mainly in that the conflict as presented seems more like a critique of liberal sexual norms than it does conservative ones. Impulsive sex seems like a much better idea at the time than it does the morning after. Good sexual partners seem like such less because they're hot and more because they're decent human beings. Jeong-wan and Hee-soo think they know everything there is to know about men, yet at the most critical moments come off as appallingly ignorant.
I might have thought this was intentional given how Hee-soo's storyline resolves. Yet Jeong-wan's storyline concludes with an anecdote about her own upbringing. While this anecdote explains a lot about Jeong-wan's beliefs, Jeong-wan herself simply interprets the story as being a blanket positive statement over why we should sympathize with mothers. It does not occur to Jeong-wan that she, like her mother, has very unhealthy attitudes when it comes to men and in the long run would probably be happier abandoning the city lifestyle altogether.
You might want to take my gender theory critique with a grain of salt, given that the director and both screenwriters for "Love Exposure" are all women whereas I'm just an apostate feminist man. Although that all goes to the larger point- if you're the kind of person who likes to overthink these political issues, "Love Exposure" is the movie for you because it is about characters who do exactly that even in the face of real-life problems. Anyone else will probably be less than ethralled with the film.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Love Exposure" + DVD Giveaway"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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