Movie Review: Confessions (a.k.a. Good Friends)
When you watch a movie centered on friendship, what you really look for is authenticity. You want to see, hear and feel that connection between people who have no direct blood relation. You want to see that unexplained but all too familiar love between people who don't need each other but choose to be together. You want to see how they revel their true selves with their true friends. You want to see how the connection, memories and honesty can hold them together when they go through the difficult times.
That is something that's hard to fake, though. That's wny so many friendship-themed movies fail even with the best stories and slammin' scenes and dialogues. When you can't see the connction between the actors, the whole purpose is defeated.
That's what makes Good Friends (a.k.a. Confession) outstanding movie.
Hyun-tae, Inchul and Min-soo have been best friends since they were in grade school. Practically growing up together, they have become a member of each other's family. However, their friendship is put to the real test when the effort of one person to help another ends the life of a family member. Suddenly, they are faced with an unfamiliar situation, the need to lie to each other.
Connection and Disconnection
There are some things friends share that inevitably connect them like secrets, memories, embarrassments, and commonality. Of all these, it's those unique events we encounter with our friends that solidify that connection. For Hyun-tae, Inchul and Min-soo, their connection was solidified and tested early in life. When they went on what was supposed to be a naughty getaway turned out to be a moment when their strength, loyalty and word of honor is to be tested. It was an event that they survived but it was also the moment when lifelong doubts and bruises were to be made. Perhaps, they didn't even know the bruises were there until someone cut them again.
However, it was that even that made their friendship seem perfect. The problem is that they are not perfect as individuals. Hyun-tai has a loving wife and daughter but is estranged to his parents. So estranged that the only time he ever gets news about his parents is when Inchul visits them.
Inchul, the bully, hides the fact that he can hardly pay his expensive car and apartment. He maintains a sexual relationship with a girl who doesn't mind being watched as she poops.
Min-soo seems to be the push over who gets by with his multiple odd jobs just to make ends meet. His two friends are his world having lost his parents at a young age and really has no life outside of his friendship with Inchul and Hyun-tae.
They are well-aware of each other's weaknesses but loved each other enough to let each other live with their pride. They also try to fill up each other's needs. Inchul continues to care for Min-soo, physically, financially and emotionally even when he claims to be sick and tired of doing it.
They are not who you think they are
There is, of course, the undeniable subdimension in their relationship. They are together because they need each other as much as they want each other.
It seems that Hyungtai is the one who gets it all together. With a beautiful daughter and a wife that loves him and his friends, he is living the kind of life that many aim for, quiet and secured. That until you see how he is the only one of the three who refuses to see his parents despite being several minutes away from where he lives. He was heartless and actually the most dangerous.
There is Inchul who seems to be the strongest in the group that he is the only one who managed to make a comfortable life for himself but he is so weak that his friends allow him to believe that they believe he got it all figured out.
Min-soo is the one that is taken care of everybody, Inchul especially. With no parents and no steady stream of income, Inchul and Hyuntai make it a point to give him everything they could, from food to time to money. Inchul, in fact, often stays at Min-soo's house even if it is a crappy, smelly and messy apartment. It is far from his high rise condominium unit. As you look closer at Inchul's reasons for coming over, you will get a sense that Inchul needs to be there more than Min-soo needs him. Min-soo makes him feel needed, wanted and cared for. Despite the lack of money, Min-soo cooks for Inchul at Inchul's request, Min-soo stays up late with him and listens to his senseless grumblings. Hyun-tai still manages to look after Min-soo while maintaining some space to let Min-soo live his life. That is something Inchul can't seem to give Min-soo.
Hyun-tai appears to be the one that got it together. He has a clear relationship with the two but his body language provide for some space between him and his two friends. Although Inchul has money (or he appears to have money), Hyun-tai remains the "leader". He is the most righteous and also the one who have traveresed what is traditionally known as the right path but in almost every scene, Hyunt-tai is always at a distance from Inchul and Min-soo. When they sit, he sits a full arm's length apart from the two or across the two instead of beside them. He has also displayed this distance even in the way he lived his life. While the two remain single, he married and had a baby.
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Direction and Cinematography
The dimensions of the character and the dimension of the narrative have but darker layers. The ideal friendship on the surface is meant to cover the darker emotions felt by the character and even darker conditions of their lives. This darkness is echoed even in cinematography. Director Lee Do-yoon opted to fill the screen with darkness, often lighting only the faces and parts of the body of the three actors especially when two or three of them are together. This is a direct contrast of the treatment he put when the scene is without the tree, it is brighter and clearer.
Every scene of the three evokes a certain sense of mystery or deception or pain.
As the story progresses, the scenes become darker, consistent with the web of complications that has damaged the friendship of the three. At times, it has actually become harder to see the actors in the scene. I found myself moving my body to get the best angle to see the actors.
That, of course, is intentional. It was a sign that the darkness that's slowly enveloping the three is unbearable and irreparable.
Ji Sung, Ju Ji-hoon and Lee Kwang-soo, the three main characters, are flawless in their performance. The three have gotten that friendship down to a tee which included little nuisances and details that seem unimportant but actually builds for a stronger emotion. That includes how one would look away when the other two are having a conversation which signals the confidence they all have in their friendship. There is also the way they dismiss one's annoying habit or the way they lean on one another when sitting or standing.
As the story progresses, I came to a point when I just realized that there was no turning back. It was only a matter of watching how each character will end and it is probably the weakest point of the movie. The characters ended in a way that is consistent with what they have established throughout. It is not a bad thing but I was hoping for more surprises.
All in all, Good Friends/Confessions has provided a unique take on a very familiar plot, a bond destroyed by a well meaning act gone wrong. It is that unique take that makes it worth watching.