Never Forever

Even with its unusual plot, the film can't help turning into some deeper version of Unfaithful.

Never Forever

Director: Gina Kim
Cast: Vera Farmiga, David L. McInnis, Ha Jeong-woo, Ha Jung-woo, Hwa-Si Lee
Distributor: Arts Alliance America
MPAA rating: R
First date: 2008
US DVD Release Date: 2008-07-15

Sophie's (Vera Farmiga) blonde hair and blue eyes stand out noticeably among the sea of dark-haired, brown-eyed Koreans. Sophie is married to a Korean-American, but her alienation from those around her goes beyond simply racial background. Unlike her husband's overly religious family, Sophie is not spiritual. When she tags along to church services or prayer sessions where the preacher recites a prayer entirely in a language she doesn't understand, Sophie is wide-eyed, blank faced. She feels no connection.

Sophie's life is entirely concentrated through others. She lives in a nice house, tags along on family functions, silently sits through church services, and tries to please her husband, Andrew (David Lee McInnis). When the film begins, Sophie is feeling concerned for Andrew who has fallen into depression after the death of his father. The couple also can’t get pregnant, which makes Andrew’s depression even worse.

After Andrew's suicide attempt, Sophie grows increasingly desperate to help her husband. One day, while at the clinic, Sophie sees Jihah (Jung-woo Ha), a Korean immigrant who looks similar to her husband. Jihah is there to donate sperm but is denied because his visa expired. Angry, he takes off and Sophie chases after him.

For about 20 minutes she follows him -- hiding behind corners, peering through windows. It all seems silly at first until she finally confronts him outside his apartment. She tells him she has a job for him -- to get her pregnant. She says each time they have sex she'll pay him $300; once she finally succeeds in getting pregnant, she'll pay an additional $3,000. And then, without the slightest hint of hesitation, Sophie takes off her clothes and waits.

She stares at him, wide-eyed and blank faced. She feels no connection to him. Jihah, too, is disconnected. He's illegally staying in the country, speaks little English, and is desperate to find work. He wants to save enough money to buy a plane ticket for his girlfriend in Korea to join him. Ironically, her picture lingers in the background when Jihah and Sophie first have sex -- mirroring their infidelity.

So obviously Jihah and Sophie are more alike than they think. But even with its unusual plot, the film can't help turning into some deeper version of Unfaithful. It's not long before Sophie and Jihah start to fall for each other, which creates a whole mess of problems for the both of them.

What keeps Never Forever from drifting into Lifetime movie of the week territory is Farmiga's acting and Gina Kim's directing. When the film begins, the acting actually feels a bit stiff. It's not until we get to the real meat of the story that Farmiga shines.

In the sex scenes between Sophie and Jihah, the business-like rituals between them are shown in a way to heighten the mechanical actions. The camera is stationary while Sophie stares blankly, making sure to never look Jihah in the eyes. Gradually, as their sessions continue, the film makes subtle changes. The camera becomes busier, Sophie begins to show emotion, and in turn the scene begins to subtly morph into something else. By the time Sophie and Jihah are aware of what's happening, the moment is cathartic for both characters and the viewers.

Indeed, Sophie's growing emotion is well conveyed, but feeling is missing from the male actors, particularly David Lee McInnis, who plays Andrew. His character doesn't require much, except to mope around and look depressed. During a few confrontations with Sophie, that same mopey characteristic is echoed, which only makes him look psychotic instead of hurt.

It's also arguable whether this was intentional or not to force the audience to dismiss their empathy for him. There's a particular scene toward the end that seems to only exist to justify the eventual actions Sophie makes. A film like this is more powerful when all the characters are emotionally and empathetically equal. There's really no need for villains.

Since this is an independent film, the DVD is sparse. There are two mini featurettes, a trailer, and that's about it. The featurettes are in Korean with no English subtitles. One featurette has an interview with both Farmiga and Jung-woo Ha, who plays Jihah. Farmiga speaks in English, but Ha's entire interview is not translated, which is disappointing.

The rest of the featurettes are behind the scene shots of actors making funny faces, waving at the camera, standing around waiting for their cue -- that sort of thing. There's minimal talking in these parts, so the lack of English subtitles is less frustrating.

Never Forever actually has a huge cult following in Korea. In an interview, director Gina Kim questioned if the attention was because of the interracial theme, but she later concluded that audiences simply enjoy the complex, emotional aspects, which is all Never Forever is. It’s less melodrama and more coming of age.







The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.


Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.


Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.


Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.


The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.