The DVD of Never Forever I received for review is a pre-release screener that does not reflect the final product. There are no menus, no special features, and a disclaimer that appears over the picture at regular intervals. Thus, you will find the technical sections of this review to be a little sparse, as what I am viewing does not reflect the final product.
Blonde, blue-eyed Sophie (Vera Farmiga, The Departed) is married to handsome Korean man Andrew (David McInnes). Though he loves her dearly, she is having a hard time fitting in with his family, both because of the racial divide and their strong Christian beliefs. Following a death in the family and his continued failure to get his wife pregnant even after they have tried to use a fertility clinic, Andrew attempts suicide. This drives Sophie to desperate measures, and she hires a Korean immigrant, Jihah (Jung-Woo Ha, Time), to impregnate her so she can trick her husband into believing that his manhood is still viable. Only, as Andrew continues to push her away, Sophie begins to find some solace in her business relationship with Jihah.
The first traditional full-length from former video diarist Gina Kim, Never Forever is a quiet, unassuming drama that deals with heavy issues in intelligent and emotionally relevant ways. If you break down a film like Never Forever and compare it to a mainstream Hollywood drama, you'll find that they have all the same pieces, that Kim structures her story just like anyone else, but her eye for how the picture should look and her ear for how the dialogue should be spoken sets Never Forever apart. As a writer and a director, Kim is concerned with making a movie that is substantial. Therefore, the tryst between Sophie and Jihah is not lurid, nor is Sophie's dilemma doled out in easy to digest nuggets of pop psychology.
Like many independent directors before her, Kim strives for an aura of spontaneity. The unobtrusive camera work (courtesy of director of photography Matthew Clark) allows the audience to move in close, and the way Kim lingers on a moment enhances the intimacy. She's trying to show that her characters' actions are happening naturally, following the logic of each individual, rather than appearing to be locked into a preplanned outline.
This means that the twists the story takes in the back half make emotional sense for the characters and have the appropriate consequences. Jihah has problems of his own, including immigration troubles and unresolved issues in Korea. Sophie also has her secrets, and the more she tries to keep the secret of her and Jihah, the more the others rise to the surface, as if there is only room for a set amount. Both Vera Farmiga and Jung-Woo Ha are very good, clicking together with a naturalistic acting style that serves the material very well. These are thinking actors, and you can see on their faces that they are processing the information, feeling the moment.
I am not sure how I feel about the ending of Never Forever. It takes some dark turns in the final stretch that Gina Kim doesn't have time to follow all the way through, opting instead for an ambiguous ending that could even bother fans of ambiguity like myself. Without giving us much as far as revelations regarding time and place, Kim leaves it up to us to figure out how Sophie has resolved her love triangle, and if her intention is for us to walk away pondering the possibilities, then Kim certainly succeeded.
Never Forever was shot at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and it comes to DVD as an anamorphic widescreen transfer. There is a lot wrong with this screener copy due to the lower production values on the manufacturing and the addition of the "screener only" warning that makes it impossible for me to judge how the retail version will actually look--a downside to the practice of sending sites like DVD Talk unfinished copies. The screener looks like a dub once-removed from its original source, almost like a copy of a copy. I doubt the finished product will look the same.
No additional technical specs regarding the soundtrack are included, so I assume that the final version will also have a basic stereo mix only. This sounds generally good on my copy, with a natural sounding atmosphere and an emphasis on the clarity of the spoken dialogue. It does, however, tend to be all over the map as far as volume, and a comfortable listening level for the average conversation means that the music and the louder arguments get very, very loud and will likely send you rushing to your remote.
As I said, there is no menu, and no indication of subtitles. Using my subtitle button on my remote, it did appear that I should have been able to turn some on, but they never arrived.
Once again, my screener is missing any bonus features, though the packaging informs me that the final version will include deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and a making-of featurette.
Gina Kim's Never Forever is a well-executed, original drama with a solid starring duo in Vera Farmiga and Jung-Woo Ha. The emotions are raw and the writing is honest, making this story of a woman who seeks another man in order to get pregnant and save her marriage an emotional powerhouse that gets under the skin without being too forceful about it. For fans of smaller, realistic stories, Never Forever should be a real winner. Recommended.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.