A Werewolf Boy

A coming-of-age story with teeth, director Jo Sung-hee’s new film takes place in the pastoral Korean countryside in the mid-1960s, where the teenage Suni (Park Bo-young) has moved to ease her lung problems after her father’s untimely death. A pretty but introverted girl, Suni keeps a secret journal with the words "Moonlight Melancholy" adorning its cover. As though Suni had summoned him from the watchful moon itself, a boy her own age (Song Joong-ki) appears on the property, a veritable "wild child" who can neither read nor speak, and who attacks whatever food is placed before him — though, in a sly bit of cultural satire, Jo makes clear that the boy’s lack of table manners is only a slight notch below that of the average Korean bumpkin.

As if the boy were a stray dog, Suni and her family decide to take him in, at least until they can find an orphanage willing to adopt him. Suni and the boy become surprisingly close. Using a dog-training manual to teach him to behave, Suni begins to civilize this endearing beast — there is at least as much Pygmalion in this story as Twilight. But the spoiled young jerk who owns the house Suni and her family live in has his mind set on marrying Suni, and sees the boy as a pest to be exterminated. These two alpha males will soon come into bloody conflict, and though the boy is peaceful by nature, the monster inside him is waiting to burst out.

While A Werewolf Boy contains those expected elements of fantasy and violence that are implicit in its title, Jo imbues it with a wistful, almost fairy-tale quality, a mood of nostalgic remembrance of times past. Belying the genre-film scenario, this is a gentle, affecting melodrama of youthful longing and lost innocence.


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