Inner beauty only goes skin deep in this romance

A man who wakes up each day to find himself in a different body is resigned to his fate until he meets the beautiful Hong E Soo (Han Hyo Joo, above).
A man who wakes up each day to find himself in a different body is resigned to his fate until he meets the beautiful Hong E Soo (Han Hyo Joo, above).PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

The story: Korean furniture designer Kim Woo Jin wakes up every day to find himself in a different body - from a Korean granny to a Caucasian man. Hence, he is unable to carry on a long-term relationship. Kim is resigned to his lonesome fate until he meets the lovely furniture shop buyer Hong E Soo (Han Hyo Joo).

What makes this movie a fun watch is the guessing game: Who will be the next actor to take on the role of the protagonist Kim? His ever- changing physical appearance means that he is portrayed by not one, but 123 actors.

The actors playing the role are cast across all ages, races and genders, ranging from unknown foreign faces to A-list Korean actress Park Shin Hye and Japanese actress Juri Ueno.

Amid the sea of changing faces, trusty actress Han (best known for starring in the thriller Cold Eyes, 2013) stands out with her nuanced acting and expressive eyes.



    126 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3/5 stars

The movie rests on the perennial dilemma of whether people can look past physical appearance to appreciate one's inner beauty.

This is explored in the unlikely romance between the afflicted Kim and his love interest Hong.

When Kim morphs into a handsome young lad (Park Seo Joon), he musters up the courage to ask Hong on their first date. However, he backs off when he transforms into a tubby, balding middle-aged man (Kim Sang Ho).

The premise is based on the 2012 American social media film The Beauty Inside, which was a branding campaign for tech giants Intel and Toshiba.

The online movie, which featured the tech companies' products, invited netizens to submit video clips of themselves acting as the protagonist.

The Korean version would have been an intriguing take on the film, especially since the country is synonymous with plastic surgery and transforming one's appearance.

However, do not expect a thought-provoking movie that pushes boundaries.

Instead, first-time Korean feature film director Baek Jong Yul serves up a feel-good romance. Cue beautifully shot date scenes of the couple walking in the snow or having a heart-to-heart talk over wine.

Being eye candy, the handsome actors (Lee Dong Wook, Lee Jin Wook and Yoo Yeon Seok) score the romantic scenes and longer screen-time with the female lead.

The story's meaningful message - that beauty lies within - would have made a greater impact if these meatier parts were given to actors without conventional leading man looks.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2015, with the headline 'Inner beauty only goes skin deep in this romance'. Print Edition | Subscribe