When we talk about Park Hoon-jung, we talk about a storyteller.
Night in Paradise tells us the story of Tae-gu and Jae-yeon; their lives end up intertwined for a bigger purpose, without knowing it (nor planning it), but they share something in common: the loss of their families in the hands of gangsters and with that, the loss of desire to live.
Tae-gu from the gangsters perspective, where he is just a pawn in his boss game, the guilt consuming him and the desire of revenge as his only life purpose.
You suffer with him the transformation from a loyal, methodic, good-at-what-he-does but still with a heart to a cold-blooded killer, just a shell of a human; still trying to hold on to something, someone worth protecting
Jae-yeon from the gangsters innocent relatives perspective, where she had to witness her whole family die because of his uncle, they were all innocent and her world shattered into millions of pieces.
Now she has to live with her uncle, the one that she hates and wants to see dead. After all she had to endure, she is terminally ill, with less than a month to live, she doesn’t care about anything anymore and continually plays with the idea of ending her life once for all.
They cross paths when Tae-gu avenges the deaths of his sister and niece and has to fly to Jeju Island, to live undercover for a week, with Jae-yon’s uncle.
This super stylish noir brings us a breathtaking cinematography by the hand of Kim Young-ho, every shot, every frame you can just print it and hang it in your living room; the color palette is simply exquisite.
At the beginning we can see a nod to master Wong Kar-wai with the lighting choice he made to introduce us to this world; after that the colors are cold, even the warm ones looks like they are behind a sun screen, because they look a bit gray, washed out, even dirtier to set the tone of what and who we are watching.
Not only the cinematography is a state of the art, but the music accompanies perfectly the sequences, Mowg guides us through the whole rollercoaster this film is.
Is not a happy story or about remarkable people, but is a story about life and death and what we do with them, a story that is predictable, you know what is going to happen but you are so immerse in their world that, nonetheless, you enjoy the journey.
Hoon-jung usually gives us a really slow first half in his movies, so you can meet the characters, the background stories and even empathize with them; the second half on the other hand is the messy, passionate one, where all the contained emotions explode and nothing can stop what is about to happen.
I could split the movie in 4 scenes:
The opening scene with all the prisoners, all the yellow lighting working perfectly at introducing us to this world;
Tae-gu sitting on the street, emotionless, the camera focusing in the rain drops hitting the ground, haunting music with a car accident as background;
Tae-gu in the car, fighting for his life, face up, with mixed emotions between terror, courage and resignation at the same time while a melody of despair, sounds in the background making us feel hopeless and
The last scene, in the ocean, a bright one again, giving us a fulfilling feeling even if is not the happiest, is how things should be.
These scenes are tied by rain, rain is in important parts of the movie, when something is about to change, you can see is raining.
And what is the rain? Water in the form of droplets that have condensed and then become heavy enough to fall under gravity… that’s what we have in Night in Paradise, small decisions and events that have cluster and become a ticking bomb with just one possible outcome.
And of course, after the storm comes the calm and while we see the credits roll, we can enjoy really bright and warm shots with vivid colors, what we didn’t have through the whole film, finally wrapping up with the sense that “life goes on”.
The excellent performances of Uhm Tae-goo and Jeon Yeo-been made this story really worth of being told.
Park Hoon-jung keeps surprising us, this time with a full circle story (some words at the beginning that will make sense towards the end) and what it feels something like poetic justice.
Next Entertainment World, we will be waiting for a special edition release, because this needs to be in our personal collection.