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Mun Che-yong



Run time:

1h 41m

Zany comedy gives way to a heart-wrenching buddy movie, as two mental hospital patients bond over their difficult pasts and tragedy-tinged current lives.

After 30 minutes of Shoot Me in the Heart, it is suspected you have the measure of its impact. Less profound that One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), not as funny as Crazy People (1990), and lacking the stylised refinement of Park Chan-wook’s I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK (2006).

Actually, what this initial impression of derivativeness and cheap laughs does is leave you unprepared for the emotional impact of the film’s ensuing dramatic developments.

Soo-myung (Yeo Jin-goo) and Seung-min (Lee Min-ki) meet at a mountain-side mental hospital. Soo-myung has been institutionalised after a traumatic family event when we was 19. He is shy, nervous, rarely speaks and has a deep fear of scissors, resulting in his long flowing locks.

Alternatively, Seung-min is a champion paraglider and first enters the hospital in a flurry of fists and head-butts. Without any legitimate medical reason for him being admitted, Seung-min protests and challenges the hospital’s aggressive staff.

The unlikely pair begin to bond and open-up to each other, as a dark past and a bizarre current family feud explains their route to the hospital. How much longer they can survive as the threat of shock therapy looms large and forces them to risk everything for a different future.

Our opening strap above suggests the movie shifts towards being a ‘buddy movie’, but this could just as aptly be described as a love story. While there is nothing directly sexualised about their relationship, there is no doubt their bond warrants the concept of love. That said, there are the quick looks and doe-eyes which alludes to something else too.

Despite the emotional whack the film eventually provides, it does descend into soft-edged melodrama and sometimes outright daytime TV cheese. And yet, it remains deeply compelling and dramatic. Like an irresistibly catchy pop song you find yourself singing along to in the kitchen.

The film closes with the statement that it was ‘Dedicated to the struggling youth’. Both 25 years old, Soo-myung and Seung-min are a chalk and cheese pairing that find commonality in the scars of their family interactions. We appreciate the extent to which someone’s family support dictates their mental health, even when the pair are not portrayed as the archetypal mental hospital patients.

The chemistry between Lee Min-ki and Yeo Jin-goo offers us the cause for emotional investment in their character’s plight. A bond which is so deep, so important to each of them. One that has flourished despite their confinement.

Shoot Me in the Heart needs time to get moving. To settle into the emotional aspect of the story and for us to appreciate the lives of the characters. As we travel through this building middle act and onto the maudlin final act, the outlay we feel in the futures of these young men is palatable.

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