Skip to main content
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
Get full digital access to globeandmail.com
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
// //

Ah-In Yoo, left, Steven Yeun, and Jong-seo Jun, centre, in Burning.

Pine House Film

  • Burning
  • Directed by: Lee Chang-dong
  • Written by: Lee Chang-dong and Oh Jungmi
  • Starring: Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun and Jun Jong-seo
  • Classification: N/A
  • 148 minutes

rating

3.5 out of 4 stars

“What kind of story are you writing?” It’s a question asked often of Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in), an introverted and impoverished would-be novelist, throughout the course of the new drama Burning. The film, the first from noted South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong (Secret Sunshine, Poetry) in eight years, cares about as much for the query as Jong-su does, which is to say: hardly at all.

Ostensibly a thriller, Chang-dong’s quiet, philosophical and ultimately devastating adaptation of the Haruki Murakami short story flits from genre to genre, less interested in solving its central missing-person mystery than it is in exploring the distance we give ourselves in order to conceal our true origins and intentions. The driving narrative – focusing on Jong-su’s infatuation and then calamitous obsession for a childhood friend (Jun Jong-seo) – is a means to an end for Chang-dong, who uses the inherent tension that comes with such a plot to scratch various societal itches, notably class and privilege.

The director’s slow-burn (sorry) style may exhaust the endurance of some audiences, but nearly every minute matters. Chang-dong’s many masterful tableaux (one of which still haunts, months after first witnessing it) work overtime to keep the eye and mind alive, as does his inquisitive treatment of modern-day Korea. The same goes for the spit-fire performance of Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead), whose wealthy man of mystery enters Jong-su’s life at exactly the wrong, or perhaps right, moment.

Story continues below advertisement

Burning opens Nov. 2 in Toronto.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies