Yourself and Yours (South Korea, 2016)

A youngish couple, Yeong-soo (Kim Joo-hyuk) and Min-jeong (Lee Yoo-young), are resting in bed, discussing her do’s and don’ts. After going in rounds about the same issues, they decide to take a break in their relationship. The next day, Min-jeong has vanished without a trace. Instead a woman shows up looking exactly like Min-jeong.  Or is she Ming-jeong, just lying to not be her?

Yourself and Yours joins the many films which depict men’s confusion and ideals about women. In some films, the same woman might be portrayed by two different actresses, but here the same actress seems to be (possibly) playing two different women.

The film is also another addition to writer-director Hong Sang-soo’s oeuvre of personal and intimate portraits, where intellectually leaning people have a lot of time on their hands to sit in soju bars and coffee shops, spending hours discussing their relationships, work, and ideas about life. Hong often casts same actors, with one of them playing his alter ego, aka a filmmaker. The women are often wannabe writers or visual artists, with the men offering them positions as muses, which they would seemingly fit, but in the end they want to have their own path. What saves Hong’s films from male-centered ego boosting is his good natured, slightly ironic view of his characters. Hong’s films are perhaps dramas with a comedic touch, or serious relationship comedies.

Yeong-soo is irritated over his girlfriend Min-jeong, who tends to overdo it with drinks. They have made an agreement: Min-jeong will drink only five soju and an occasional beer per night (as Koreans are notorious drinkers, this would count as moderate for a slender woman). Yeong-soo has also problems with his mother and wonders if he should even stay with Min-jeong. His neighbor (Kim Eui-sung) claims that Yeong-soo does not know anything about women. A writer named Jaeyoung (Kwon Hae-hyo) spots Min-jeong in a coffees hop, but she claims not to know him. Same happens to filmmaker Sangwon (Yu Jun-sang). So is the woman really Min-jeong, or somebody just resembling her, or intentionally playing her for whatever reason? Nobody knows, and in the end, this is not the real mystery of the film. The real problem is that Young-soo needs to let go of his insecurities and leave his girlfriend to decide some parts of het life herself.

Like in most Hong films, the settings are simple: home, bar, coffee shops, a side street, all shot with one non-moving camera shot per scene The focus is on the actors and their interaction, hence no close-ups on anyone’s reaction. In one shot, a shop attendant is undressing a mannequin in the shop window, taking its hands out to get the dress out and a new one on – a symbol of a woman as seen by this bunch of men, who try to second-guess Min-jeong. Hong is always skillful at inserting these kind of, seemingly nonsense shots, which somehow reveal the ideas of the film. His are these carefully crafted but somehow airy and improvisatory slice-of-life stories stories about the kind of people he knows best.

Yourself and Yours is distributed in the US by The Cinema Guild.