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.
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.