Photo: Film at Lincoln Center
Before We Vanish by Tony G. Huang Film

Yourself and Yours | Hong Sang-soo

June 27, 2020

Yourself and Yours is a surreal, playful, and sometimes brilliant puzzle of a film from director Hong Sang-soo.

In Yourself and Yours, we find Hong Sang-soo amusing himself by writing scenes that are completely ambivalent in nature, mainly due to having lead actress Lee Yoo-Young play a woman, Min-jeong, who refuses to be identified — to other characters, to the audience, even to herself. She takes up this gambit after a fight with her long-term boyfriend, Yeong-soo (Kim Joo-hyuk), over issues related to her conduct — she drinks too much, had agreed to limit herself, was seen at a bar somewhere. After the fight, Min-Jeong sets out on her own, sending Yeong-soo into a period of prolonged misery during which his attempts to reunite with her are continually thwarted. Meanwhile, a woman played by Lee appears at a bar, where multiple men recognize her as Yeong-soo, though she claims only to be her twin. Min-jeong haunts the various quarters of Yeong-soo’s life, and everywhere there are ghostly indicators of her existence. While we are shown scenes in which Min-jeong’s “twin” goes out with other men, capriciously fielding their questions about maybe knowing her from somewhere, Yeong-soo’s longing for his partner edges into desperation as he continually runs into blind alleys in his search for her. The most potent and strange metaphor that Hong utilizes is a shot held at length on a mannequin in a store where Min-jeong may or may not have worked — we feel her absence. Other surreal, unexplained incidents crop up, too: Yeong-soo’s leg cast just becomes part of the film after Min-jeong’s disappearance, with no attempt from the filmmakers to mold it into the plot; or Yeong-soo’s hallucination of Min-jeong running into his arms, communicated in an elegant panning shot. The film’s ending is a stroke of brilliance, a brief, decisive rupture of its dreamy universe by a forceful realism. Yourself and Yours never lets us know for sure if Min-jeong’s twin is Min-jeong or really somebody else, though our suspicions border on skepticism. When Yeong-soo’s friend finds her at a bar, however, she inadvertently reveals to him that she’s the one they’re looking for, and the jig is up — though Hong decides to let the play-acting continue. The way this happy reunion comes bursting into the film through sheer fictive magic is reminiscent of Classic Hollywood comedies, and is perhaps a weird match for the exploratory, tricky film which preceded it. One wonders if the happy couple vibes that permeate the final shot complete this puzzle, or if we’re blocked from ever solving it. 

Published as part of June 2020’s Before We Vanish.