Chungmuro/Film Reviews
Movie Review: A Werewolf Boy
by | May 11, 2013 | 161 Comments

A Werewolf Boy is an exceptional film that’s been on my radar ever since it was announced (so by that timeline, I’ll get to watch Gwanghae, the Man Who Became King by the year 2037), and one that’s raked in some considerable accolades since its lauded release last fall.

Despite this being a sophomore effort by director Jo Sung-hee—who netted himself an award for best new director at the 49th Baeksang Arts AwardsA Werewolf Boy set box office records, becoming the most successful Korean melodrama of all time as well as the third highest-grossing domestic film of 2012, second only to crime caper The Thieves and the aforementioned Gwanghae (internationally known as Masquerade).

Note: There will be some spoilers, but every story detail won’t be spelled out for those who haven’t yet seen the movie but still want to. And for those readers, the ending has been separated into its own section so it can be skipped in its entirety. (If you do happen to be a spoilerphobe, then enter the comments section/beanut gallery at your own risk. I can only go so far to protect you!)

 
SONG OF THE DAY

Park Bo-young – “My Prince” from the OST. [ Download ]

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Aside from the prologue and epilogue, which take place in the present, most of the film is set in an unspecified countryside village circa 1965 where our heroine and her family make their initial move in the hopes that it will improve her ailing health.

This is where the stage is set, since A Werewolf Boy opens with our heroine, forty-seven years after the events that take place in the movie proper, returning from the United States to the home that filled her days with wonder. She comes from a household filled with her children and grandchildren, and comes to meet another granddaughter when she returns to Korea to sell the house that’s more or less stayed in her family all these years. The sight of the house again after so long spurs her into a flashback of her teenage years that lasts nearly the entire runtime, where her love story with the film’s titular werewolf begins.

I went into this knowing nothing more than the name and starring couple, which is my favorite way to watch most anything even though it’s getting tougher to do nowadays. Because the title is fairly specific I had a few guesses as to what the story was about, and in that sense there aren’t any huge surprises as far as plot goes—it’s more or less your classic beauty and the beast story, with a hero that has a little The Jungle Book in him, plus an inevitable bit of The Wolfman, too.

Lest we think that the title is an allegory or that our hero is just wolf-like, rest assured—it’s pretty literal, in that he’s an actual werewolf. What’s most rewarding about this experience, however, is how the story deals with him as a boy/man caught between two worlds, while seemingly belonging in none.

Along with being a love story, A Werewolf Boy also functions as a coming-of-age tale for both our wolf boy and our heroine, who both begin as outcasts in their own right before discovering in each other a common bond that relies only on their connection to each other, and not on words.

She’s KIM SUNI (Park Bo-young), who finds herself ostracized from normal activities like going to school or living in the city because of her health. She lives with only her mother and younger sister since her father has passed away, and spends her days sullenly while she spends her nights writing down her loneliness (and subsequent anger at the world which scorns her as an invalid) in a diary.

The first glimpse we see of CHUL-SOO (Song Joong-ki) is during a dark segment at the beginning of the film, where his dying captor frees him, perhaps out of a sense of mercy. It doesn’t seem to be a boy locked behind such a heavy iron door, but a feral creature with glowing eyes, one we hear uttering ferocious, otherworldly roars, and one we only see hulking in shadow.

But when Suni and her warm-hearted mother (played by Jang Young-nam) first encounter him (technically the second encounter for Suni, but she doesn’t know that), Chul-soo doesn’t look imposing at all – he’s merely dirty, ragged, and starving.

Song Joong-ki hasn’t managed to go wrong yet, but I have to admit to being surprised at just how well he pulls off being feral here – you just wouldn’t have thought it was possible from his face alone, coupled with his previous roles. He’s got the animal mannerisms down pat, but he’s still human, and we see him grow and evolve from mindlessly inhaling food like a dog to something a little more in-between, helped in no small part by how incredibly expressive his eyes can be.

Despite Chul-soo sticking out like a splinter in the thumb of society, the small-town Powers That Be aren’t very concerned with his discovery and write him off as an orphan and by-product of the Korean War. It’s their disinterest which causes Mom to take him in out of pity, lending to moments of hilarity I didn’t think to expect in (what I perceived to be) a Very Serious Movie.

It’s refreshing that the director realizes how absurd it is to have someone like Chul-soo all but leap onto a dinner table in order to stick his face in everyone’s food, and so we get plenty of laughs from the fact that a family of three girls just adopted a feral boy. Doubly nice is that the movie knows just how to strike the right balance, with everything being played straight because it’s the situations themselves and not exaggerated reactions that make up the funny. Thus the comedy feels organic to the world that’s set up, as opposed to feeling shoehorned in before the melodramatics start.

Suni initially treats Chul-soo with a mixture of disinterest and disdain, though she eventually starts to warm up to her strange and unrefined roommate the more time she spends with him.

He first wins her favor (in no small part) by protecting her on multiple occasions from her menacing landlord, JI-TAE (Yoo Yeon-seok), the errant and privileged son of her late father’s business partner who carries a torch for Suni, but can only express his love through the fine art of assault.

Yes, Ji-tae’s the Gaston of this tale, and he’s not even two-dimensional enough to be a cartoon. He’s the weakest part of the story hands down, if only because he’s just a device to get us from point A to point B, and he’s in love with the heroine because that’s his only excuse. When literally every other adult in the story acts absurdly reasonable (most of the time), Ji-tae sticks out for being lazily contrived only because giving him proper motivations would take too much effort.

To put it simply, his character and the role he plays in the story is a waste of space.

So, Suni gets the bright idea to start training Chul-soo to act more refined by using a dog training manual, the reading of which begins to replace her nightly “I hate the world” diary musings. She starts by getting him to obey her whenever she tells him to “wait,” and Chul-soo begins to eagerly seek her approval because the reward for a job well done is her giving him a pat on the head, and nothing makes him happier.

There is one thing he likes more than a pat on the head, and that’s when Suni plays the guitar and sings for him. You can see his eyes fill with childlike wonder as he stares at her, completely transfixed, and it’s in this moment you realize that he’s falling in love.

It’s a strength that Song Joong-ki is able to portray these emotional beats without uttering a word—Chul-soo can understand Korean, but he can’t seem to speak any of it.

Chul-soo struggles to fit in and struggles to please, all while his bond with Suni grows. It’s adorable and sad to see him try to communicate using only what he’s been taught, like when he wants to reward Suni for playing the guitar by how she always rewards him—with a pat on the head. (So. Cute.)

All the cute can’t last forever, even as we get peeks into Chul-soo’s very inhuman traits like his superhuman resilience and strength. It’s only when Suni is threatened by Ji-tae that he loses control and morphs into his werewolf form for the first time in full in order to protect her, his transformation spurred by emotion and not anything genre-specific (like a full moon).

Chul-soo is less in control of himself while in his inherently-violent wolf form, but he’s stopped from killing Ji-tae by obeying Suni when she shakily commands him to wait.

It’s a relief that Suni’s not a wilting flower, since she’s not afraid of him even though she’s seen what he can become. But the encounter does put Chul-soo in an unwanted limelight with the town authorities (and on Ji-tae’s shit list, because who isn’t on that), which only works against him as he tries to do right, but keeps getting misinterpreted for doing wrong.

The story begins to sidestep later into the second act, as Ji-tae seeks to call official attention to Chul-soo in the hopes of getting rid of him. Through this process, Chul-soo’s origin story is revealed, and while I give it props for being unconventional from traditional werewolf canon, it starts to feel tangential when introduced so late in the game.

Mostly, it just didn’t seem all that important to find out exactly why Chul-soo is a werewolf, because that’s not what the story is about, nor do any of his personal developments hinge on that revelation. (A revelation he doesn’t even get to understand, since it’s not like anyone sits him down to tells him what’s happening.)

Another detriment to getting bogged down in the technicalities is that we inevitably realize that they’re not quite technical enough to explain what could’ve been just as easily passed off as just supernatural, and therefore mysterious. If you’re going to purposefully bring attention to his supernatural origins, you better hope that you’ve got your sense-making ducks in a row, ‘s all I’m sayin’.

But it serves as an excuse for the authorities to get involved, though it’s really Ji-tae who moves things into place during the second half, just because he’s crazy enough to take action without concern for consequence if it means killing Chul-soo. Why? Because he can, and because that moves the plot forward.

To say that he manages to break character when he was barely conceived to start with really says something, but it’s an inevitable feeling that overcame me as he started losing it toward the finale, since most of his actions had me going, “What? Seriously?” It’s tough, because I found myself liking the scenes that resulted as a consequence, even if I wasn’t as much a fan of how we got there.

Once the focus shifts back to Suni and Chul-soo, and how they’re directly affected by all of the above, we find our footing again, and not a moment too soon. It’s not to say that the movie derailed in any way, but it could have been leaner in some regards in order to focus more on the dynamic between our two star-crossed lovers, and less on the outside forces threatening to tear them apart. (If only because the outside forces weren’t that convincing or engaging in the first place.)

It’s there where the story shines, whether it’s solely due to the actors or the poignancy of their relationship, or even a mixture of all those factors rolled into one. For someone who’s as story-driven as I am, saying that a film makes up for its narrative shortcomings with something as unquantifiable as heart means a lot, and speaks to something special that can’t exactly be explained.

This all goes to say that A Werewolf Boy surprised me by gripping me emotionally even when I had reservations about the plot, so I’m kind of at a loss on how to deal reconcile that. Does an emotional stake actually elevate a movie like this, or does it just make us turn a blind eye to what didn’t work for us? I’m genuinely curious, especially in this case.

THE ENDING

The reason why I wanted to mention the ending specifically is because it was, honestly, an incredibly moving and bittersweet bookend to a tale that is inherently tragic, yet one that didn’t dwell too long in its own misery. Thus, when the tragic moments hit, they hit you like a bus – starting from Chul-soo’s innocently misguided search for Suni’s guitar, as he wordlessly holds out the crude picture he’s drawn in place of a word he can’t say. Props to Song Joong-ki, because he kills it through the whole movie, but never more than in the final act.

I was sure that my heart couldn’t take any more after Suni abandons Chul-soo for his own good, causing him to say his first line of the entire film: “Don’t go.” Don’t go. That one line is immensely powerful because it’s said at just the right time, and is a testament to how far in this show set its emotional hooks—because as much as the mob-with-pitchforks angle bothered me in the second act, I found myself willing to forgive almost everything just because of how much Suni and Chul-soo’s emotions affected me during their farewell.

Throughout the story, Chul-soo displays his unwavering loyalty toward Suni in waiting eagerly for her without expecting anything in return but her affection. We know that he’s a byproduct of some military experiment gone wrong (made to produce super soldiers because wolves are so resilient, since I doubt the fact that wolves also mate for life was on the forefront of their priority list), but it’s not really said whether he’s immortal, or how long he’ll actually live.

That’s not important, since not much of his origin story is—all that really matters is that he doesn’t change on a fundamental level, and is loyal to Suni for life – which means that he waits for her for forty-seven years, his own face frozen in time, just because she’d left him a note that said: “Wait for me. I’ll come back for you.”

We don’t know why Suni never thought to return before, though the most likely scenario is that circumstances prevented her and she just… forgot. Which is why Park Bo-young’s tears (in the extended version, we see a vision of her as her teenage self, even though it’s the older version of her actually meeting Chul-soo) are honestly difficult to watch, since she’s registering the fact that for all the years that she lived her life to the fullest, Chul-soo was patiently waiting for the day she’d return like she promised, even learning to speak in the process just so he could do like she wanted and read her a book. He was loyal where she wasn’t, but you can’t hate her for living her life, either. Though it’d be an easier pill to swallow if she hadn’t left him a note instructing him to wait.

And so Chul-soo waited for forty-seven years—but even in the end, he doesn’t get the girl. He’s left alone, for an untold amount of years to come, unable to move on. One gets the sense that he’ll just keep waiting, for as long as he lives.

It’s one of the most horrendously tragic movie endings I’ve ever seen, especially in the absence of any real tragedy or death, which is a feat. Actually, it’s eerily reminiscent of how affected I was by the ending of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, which also centered on the idea of a tragic hero waiting for eternity. (Come to think of it, A.I. also had a similar Forest Abandonment scene. Huh.)

At least Chul-soo and Suni were able to meet again, which adds a bittersweet layer to the tragedy of it all, even though it’s still harrowing to consider that nothing has changed or will ever change for Chul-soo. The movie has its merits and plenty of them, but this is the kind of ending that sticks with you and stays there when all the other details eventually fade away. And that sort of staying power is an A+ in every moviegoer’s book, mine willingly included.

 
NOT THE ENDING

The Bottom Line: A Werewolf Boy is an intensely moving and fantastical love story that’s earned its spot high on the shelf of mainstream acceptance, all while managing to separate itself from the pack by relying on pure and understated emotion, rather than slick tricks or commercial appeal, to drive the narrative forward. A worthy watch and then some, even if only for Song Joong-ki’s standout performance. 8/10.

 
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161 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Julia the Berkshire Beanie

    Wolf Boy is one of my favorite Korean movies. Watched it the first time raw, which sort of gave me the perspective that Wolf Boy might have experienced before he learned enough Korean language. Later with subs was a different but equally beautiful experience. Big thumbs up.

     (0)


    • 1.1 Ivoire

      Hello Julia the Berkshire Beanie,

      I didn’t understand this “Wolf Boy might have experienced before he learned enough Korean language.” What did you think he experienced before he learned enough Korean language?
      Thanks also for your recommendation, another reason why I should put this movie on my to-watch list.

      Thank you, HeadsNo2 for the review.

       (0)


      • 1.1.1 Sarah2i

        Probably that Julia is not a native Korean, and thus when she first saw the movie raw, it was like the wolf boy who couldn’t understand Korean either at first

         (0)


      • 1.1.2 dbfan

        I think what he/she is trying to say is that watching it raw gave the impression that it was the Wolf boy’s story of his past, before learning the language.

         (1)


      • 1.1.3 Ivoire

        Thank you, Sarah2i and dbfan, for your answers.

        Also, for anyone who might be interested, three of the main actors and actresses in the movie participated in a Q and A session that was translated here:

        http://asianwiki.com/A_Werewolf_Boy

         (0)


      • 1.1.4 Ivoire

        Thank you Sarah2i and dbfan for your responses. My follow-up comment is awaiting moderation and will be posted as soon as it has been checked out. There is a link in my response, I think that is why.

         (0)


    • 1.2 kumi

      His understanding was beyond language. It was subconscious.

       (0)


      • 1.2.1 Ivoire

        Oh, thanks!

         (0)


    • 1.3 Rachel

      I also like when ending credit scene rolled in, the film showed Chul Soo making a snowman by himself. Very nostalgic and beautiful scene.

       (2)


  2. otchosais

    watched it before and I find myself crying at the end,,

    great story :)

     (0)


  3. Net-chan

    I was moved to tears when I watched this movie. One of my most favourite Korean movies. Song Joong Ki plays the role very well (I think that’s the best I’ve seen of him so far) and Park Bo Young is just too adorable, as always. I’ve loved her since her Speed Scandal role and from that movie on, I decided I would follow her projects closely haha.

    I was first sceptical about the idea of a wolf-boy-meet-pretty-country-girl (it sounded way too Twilight-like, and I haven’t watched Twilight beyond the first movie, which was -sorry for the fans- pretty crap) BUT this was totally different, it had something we call STORY, EMOTIONS and GREAT ACTING.

    In short, great great greaaat movie :DDD.
    Thanks HeadsNo2 for reviewing the movie!

     (2)


    • 3.1 Rosie

      I totally agree with you about everything, but most especially bout the twilight part (couldn’t even sit through the first one)…
      I bonded(?) incredibly with Chul-soo without even realizing it so the ending had me bawling until i couldn’t even see
      I don’t usually cry and i was dry-eyed until Chul-soo started speaking but the moment he said that she was beautiful the fact that he waited for her for some 45+ years hit me and the waterworks started.
      i was depressed for the rest of the day until i realized that my friend (who recommended i see this) knew the ending and kept me in the dark bout it…then i got mad (and tore into her the next day at lunch)
      come to think of it, she didnt mention all the blood and gore in faith before recommending it to me and she knows i’m incredibly squeamish
      still this movie was incredibly awesome so i forgave her immediately

       (2)


  4. snow_white

    Thanks for the superb review…..

     (0)


  5. myr

    I cried while reading this review. I don’t know why. Maybe because I was remembering all the feels I had while watching A Werewolf Boy. It was tragically beautiful and too awesome. T_T

    Thanks HeadsNo2!

     (0)


    • 5.1 nxa

      ahh, I felt so silly when I found myself tearing up while reading this review! happy to see I wasn’t the only one!

       (1)


  6. missgwynnrose

    I have seenthis movie and wanted to read the reivew, but I am at work and starting to tear up just tinking about the movie. And it would be really embarsing to cry at work do i am trying not to let any actual tears fall. Its hard because it is such a beautiful story.

     (0)


  7. Pepper Fish

    I actually disliked the ending. I won’t say too much about it, but the whole thing seemed unnecessarily cliched.

     (0)


    • 7.1 hellothere

      I agree. But I enjoyed the movie as a whole.

       (0)


      • 7.1.1 Pepper Fish

        I really liked movie as well, so I just ignore the ending. Haha.

         (0)


    • 7.2 Kay

      So there is an alternate ending – not sure if may take away from the movie or anything but they released it online (?)…heres the link

      http://hangulover.tumblr.com/post/44512617569/glue-bending-a-werewolf-boy-alternate-scene

       (0)


    • 7.3 Aaron Lindsey

      I really didn’t like the ending either..I’m more of an happy ending type of person so when I saw the ending it jus made me sad and mad at the same time

       (1)


  8. Dewo

    Haven’t watched it, but I encourage my self to read your recaps. Thanks for telling me the ending, Headsno2. Many reviews don’t give the actual ending.

     (0)


  9. KDaddict

    If I find sb looking like SJK in the woods behind my house, I’d also bring him inside and give him a good scrub down too!

     (0)


    • 9.1 Korazy Lady

      No matter which ending, I absolutely loved it. It really touched my heart. I could have done without the actual turning into a werewolf, but that did not deter my love for SJK and this movie!

       (0)


      • 9.1.1 Korazy Lady

        Sorry, that was supposed to be under Kay’s comment.

         (0)


  10. 10 austriandramalover

    Thanks for the review :)

    I watched the movie raw as soon as it was up because I couldn’t wait until subs were out. So although I understood practically nothing I was crying like a baby in the end. The moment the tears started flowing was definitely Chul Soo’s “Don’t go.”..That was one powerful scene.
    Then when I watched it again with subs it was the same all over again. And it will be a cryfest for me again when I watch it again xD

    Song Joong Ki…What can I say. Loved him before watching Werewolf Boy, love him even more after watching. His performance was just amazing. I’m a sucker for actors with roles that talk (almost) nothing and yet manage to deliver the emotion.

    One of my alltime favourites already and one of those sad movies that will be watched over and over again :D

     (1)


    • 10.1 Julia the Berkshire Beanie

      Language is only a small part of communicating. That we can watch raw footage and still follow the story is a testament to that.

      This movie, and the role of the Wolf Boy, relied a lot on what was unspoken. Perhaps that is why the movie was so moving or me. I think it takes a skilled actor to deliver that performance.

       (0)


  11. 11 Saturtledaisy

    I was a complete wreck after watching this movie. It hurt, but it was a good kind of hurt. I guess.

    /spoiler-kind of if you don’t know the ending/

    I can understand Suni leaving the first time – even only returning after 47 when it’s safe that nobody would recognize her if she went back, but… I can’t get over how she left him a SECOND time. I mean… I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I just feel so upset he’s just left there… all alone.

     (4)


    • 11.1 JoAnne

      Yes, this. I got tired of waiting forever for subs for this movie, so I first watched it raw. And then I loved it so much that in the weeks left to STILL wait for subs, I watched it raw twice more. And now that there are subs, I have seen it additional two times.

      Every single time, I cry, and each viewing brings tears earlier, because I know we’re leading to that lonely silhouette, all by himself making a snowman on the hill. She should have stayed. He breaks my heart. Honestly, I began to cry just reading Head’s review and remembering it all over again.

      I keep searching, but I’ve yet to find an English-subbed DVD that works in North America region. I think I should own the thing that breaks my heart so I can break it whenever I want.

       (0)


      • 11.1.1 cherkell

        THIS. EXACTLY. I saw the headline pop up in my RSS feed and tears immediately sprang to my eyes. It’s far too early on a Saturday to be sobbing like this, dammit! :P

        What I’m curious about is all the fuss made over the two different endings — was the re-visit done just for ‘fan service’ (i.e., having them reunite to close that chapter)? And yes, the plot had holes you could drive an 18-wheeler through, but it’s SONG. JOONG. KI. peoples! Poor Puppyboy should have been a shoe-in for the Baeksang this year, but he was up against some formidable competition.

        I also hope this role doesn’t typecast or derail SJK’s movie career after this, since everyone’s gonna be saying “Oh look, there’s Werewolf Boy!” in his next feature(s). But is that such a flaw to have on one’s resume? :D

         (0)


        • 11.1.1.1 kristi

          Remember that when A Werewolf Boy was in the theaters, SJK was also burning up the small screen with Nice Guy/The Innocent Man. (Whenever he was trending on twitter on Wed/Thurs nights, many a time I couldn’t tell whether they were talking about his film or his drama.) Throw in his tour-de-force in Tree With Deep Roots from the year before, and very few, least of all those working in the industry, would make the mistake of pigeonholing him. He’s built a career of not being typecast, and believe me, they’ve taken notice.

           (0)


          • 11.1.1.1.1 JoAnne

            Let’s not forget his spectacularly brilliant performance in SKKS, or his fantastic variety/comedy performances. This kid has more talent in his little finger than an entire entertainment company’s worth of Idol Actors, much as I love certain individual representatives!

             (0)


          • 11.1.1.1.2 kristi

            Wouldn’t say his appearances in variety shows such as Running Man count as “performance”, even if they do try to manufacture situations. Now sketch comedy, that does, and he was hilarious in the skit for Gag Concert with Shin Bora. Easily one of the best and most talked-about in the show’s history.

             (0)


      • 11.1.2 maxineleecho

        i found a while back a blu-ray version of the movie, you can find it at kpopmart.com
        http://kpopmart.com/product.php?id_product=4826,
        there is also a dvd version but it only work in south east asia
        and yes it does have eng subs

         (0)


        • 11.1.2.1 Ivoire

          So does the blu-ray version has English subs as well?

           (0)


          • 11.1.2.1.1 Ivoire

            Sorry, meant to say, “so does the blu-ray version have English subs as well?”

             (0)


          • 11.1.2.1.2 Ivoire

            Sorry, one more question: is the quality of the English subs good? (do you know?)

             (0)


          • 11.1.2.1.3 maxineleecho

            well since the dvd and blu-ray versions are actually official releases, it should be good, sorry i really don’t know i haven’t bought any kdrama cds yet
            and also another thing the dvd ver. have much more collectors item like the photobook stickers and such

             (0)


          • 11.1.2.1.4 Ivoire

            Thanks for the additional info, maxineleecho.

             (0)


        • 11.1.2.2 JoAnne

          Thanks – I don’t have BluRay and I’m just holding out, waiting for a NA region DVD…sigh…

           (0)


      • 11.1.3 TS

        You can buy all-region dvd players on Amazon.

         (0)


    • 11.2 reeen

      I thought the ending may simply have been granny Suni’s dream… the lighting seemed so unnatural and the fact that we don’t see Chul-Soo once she wakes up… or did I miss something?

       (0)


      • 11.2.1 petmink

        I thought it was a dream at first too. But then she decided not to sell the house and I think it was because she wanted to leave it for him. So, it was not a dream.

         (0)


    • 11.3 Megumi

      I understand her leaving the first time but don’t get why she left the poor boy message asking him to keep waiting for her. She could have come back after maybe 5 or 10 years to check on him but 47 years? In my eyes she completely abandoned him and poor guy was left alone and lonely in the woods just like the way he was before she found him. Overall the movie was good but the ending could have been better.

       (0)


  12. 12 dduk

    OMG I watched this in the theaters when it was playing in NYC. So good. my friend was crying so hard that she was disturbing the other viewers. LOL

    Personally, I liked it but didn’t LOVE it. I wanted to but some parts where just jarring (?) like the ending was a bit cliched but i guess it’s because we saw the directors cut (which IMO is a bit long also)

    I did love Song Joon Ki’s acting in here though. Those puppy eyes can get anyone to melt and were so expressive. His chemistry between BoYoung was beautiful!

    Oh and please do watch/review GwangHae. That was a fantastic movie! It really showed the various ranges of Lee Byun Hyun’s acting skills. I love that film!

     (0)


  13. 13 Peridot

    This movie reminded me in some ways of Edward Scissorhands and Frankenstein. We have a frightening but simultaneously innocent creation whose creator dies without being able to explain to him what he is. He is initially accepted by a community but, due to a number of misunderstandings and the inability of the main character to express himself, that community demonizes him. I was reminded of Frankenstein because this movie makes the viewer question who is truly the monster and who is truly the man. I really like this movie and found it to be more related to the two aforementioned stories than the Twilight series (I disliked how some critics called it the “Korean Twilight.” I think this comparison did a disservice to the story).

    When I looked at Song Joongi’s character, I saw a mixture of the figure of the werewolf and the figure of the feral child. He is literally a werewolf, but I kept thinking about those children who were either abandoned or abused and through various deprivations never truly learned how to master language. These stories have always interested me and even provided the inspiration for a short story I submitted to a creative-writing competition. In short, I liked how the story combined the supernatural and the disturbingly real story of the feral child. His inability to speak throughout the film makes Chulsoo’s first words in the forest all the more beautiful and poignant. I do wonder how he became so fluent in the epilogue portion of the film, especially if we are to believe that he has been living in isolation all these years waiting for Suni. That was one of my quibbles, but I do not mind so much. I also questioned whether the ending was supposed to be taken literally or if Suni’s guilty conscious made her imagine everything (although her granddaughter did see a strange figure at the beginning of the film.)

    I do agree that the villain was the main weakness of the film. Unfortunately, it is difficult to have a perfect or nearly-perfect story.

     (0)


    • 13.1 Mia

      Agree!

      I love this film, it’s definitely one of my favourites!
      Even if it doesn’t have a “happy” ending.
      Thank to everyone who participated in making this film: beautiful, touching, and memorable.

       (0)


    • 13.2 dbfan

      Your post is quite long, but I saw a twinkle in my eye when you mentioned Twilight. Lol! It really doesn’t seem like a Twilightesque movie, except for that one screenshot in the forest lol.

       (0)


      • 13.2.1 Peridot

        Lol! My posts usually vary in length. Sometimes, when I’m really inspired or full of thoughts, I can write a novella :) I am not a fan of Twilight and really disliked the comparison. I really feel that it has more in common with the other two works I mentioned.

         (0)


    • 13.3 jomo

      Definitely agree on the Edward Scissorhands comparison.
      That film, by the way, scarred me for life.

      I was very very worried this one would end giving me the same tragic feeling, but I think Chul-su was able to find some sort of contentment in his solitude.
      I don’t or won’t want to think about how long after he lived, however, by himself, and I am willing to pretend another girl happened by to spend some of his years with him…

       (0)


  14. 14 pohonphee

    Great acting, the story is simple, but beautiful and moving, I cried smiling at the end. I don’t know one thing about K movies that I like, sometimes their script is minimum, the background sound is limited but they manage to use the quietness between the lines to the max and get the story across to viewers, I just love it.

     (0)


  15. 15 Saema

    THANKS.

     (0)


  16. 16 Noemi

    Thanks so much! This definitely shot up several spots on my “to-watch” list after reading your review. Just to clarify about the ending, though…I remember reading about the director releasing an alternate ending. Is the “extended” version of the ending you describe the same as the alternate ending?

     (0)


  17. 17 ck1Oz

    Look. All I can say is I knew it coming intothe movie. And the ending, the tragedy of it. For him.

    Just gutted me. I hate Korean movies when this happens. It just haunts you.

     (0)


    • 17.1 Serena B

      Yes, that’s exactly how I felt at the end. Emotionally destroyed.

       (0)


    • 17.2 Waiting

      Your words echo my feeling exactly…”Just gutted me. I hate Korean movies when this happens. It just haunts you.”

      All I can say about Song Joong-Ki is that he certainly was unafraid about giving it his all and he was superb. I often feel like some actors are afraid to do so because they do not want to risk their image. That just makes me appreciate those that do all the more.

      Thanks for the review H2!

       (0)


  18. 18 Mystisith

    Thanks for the review!
    As for me, sad to say but I found the movie just OK. Acting of SJK was good but other things were disappointing to me: The average SFX & the growling from outerspace made the character more ridiculous than dangerous in my eyes. Maybe I was in a bad mood but I also thought it was very slow at times. Or maybe people raving everywhere about this movie made me have unrealistic expectations. I would have liked to know more about the origins of SJK’s character.
    The journey of the 2 main characters and their emotions were touching: That’s the good part of it. I probably would give it a 6.5/10. It’s one of the few fantasy movies done in SK and it did well at the box office so I hope it can open doors for other productions.

     (0)


    • 18.1 Peridot

      I also would have liked to know more about the character’s back story. There were many weak points to the film but I enjoyed the emotional aspects. I think that your rating is fair.

       (0)


    • 18.2 Korazy Lady

      I see what you’re saying. But anyone who is or who is approaching grandmother age could not help but melt when he told her she was still beautiful to him! Who wouldn’t like to hear that?

       (0)


    • 18.3 DayDreamer

      Mystisith, you summed up all the things I felt regarding this movie. I also found it rather slow (I admit to fastforwarding a little) and thought the same of the SFX and growling. When I watched the movie, I went in with high expectations due to lots of people raving about it on OT. So I also have less positive opinion on it due to the greater disappointment I felt.

      Overall, the story was average. I felt like there could have been more to the story.

       (0)


      • 18.3.1 Ivoire

        Hi DayDreamer, what are/is SFX? (I am assuming it must have something to do with special effects?)

         (0)


        • 18.3.1.1 HaibaraChristie

          I think it’s “Sound Effects”

           (0)


          • 18.3.1.1.1 Ivoire

            Oh thanks!

             (0)


  19. 19 verte

    *cries*

     (0)


  20. 20 mira

    what did the Korean movie critics say about this one ?
    was it well received ?

     (0)


  21. 21 Zareen

    I saw this movie a few months back and loved the ambience of the movie. However, I didn’t think joong ki was that great, as compared to Bo young.

    Oh but I did have a logical bone to pick with the movie! All those years he’s living in that shed with the lights, whose paying for that electricity?? Because the rest of the property had no lights. So I honestly thought til the very very end that the chul soo the older meets might just be a figment of her imagination.

    And definitely watch masquerade! It’s SUCH a gorgeous movie cinematographicly.

     (0)


    • 21.1 Peridot

      I did question the ending. Your point about the electricity is astute. I also questioned his ability to speak so fluently since we are to believe that he interacted with no one for all those years. (Not to mention that his clothes were immaculate!) I wondered if the ending was the product of her guilty conscience.

       (0)


    • 21.2 Ivoire

      Good questions and good points, from you both. I will add Masquerade to my to-watch list as well. Thanks for the recommendation!

       (0)


      • 21.2.1 Newbie

        Between Masquerade and Wolf Boy Masquerade is the by far better movie. Lee Byung Hun is flawless.

        Wolf Boy got a lot of blemishes, the biggest being the villain Ji-tae, but Joong Ki’s performance is great. I’d love to see him in one more romantic movie where he gets the girl before he joins the army.

         (0)


      • 21.2.2 Ivoire

        Thanks Newbie, I will keep your comments in mind…

         (0)


    • 21.3 Nicole

      I was under the impression the property had been rented out. If you’ll note, the shed, which used to be empty, is now adorned with potted plants. Who put those there? Clearly someone must have been staying in this place in the interim. Either that or this is meant to make it clear that the lady is dreaming.

       (0)


  22. 22 Serena B

    Yes, yes, and yes! I felt the same about every point you brought up. And I really did love this movie, just the overall *feel* to it was right, even when certain plot failings arose, and even with the incredibly tragic ending. It was one of those times when I feel like bittersweet is the only word that can describe it properly. I seem to recall bawling at the end of the movie. And it’s one of those movies that moved me too much, so I have it on my ‘can’t watch again’ list. Because I tend to get too emotionally caught up in movies when they are tragic I just can’t deal with watching them again, no matter how much I love them, or I’ll just become a wreck.

    Also, I’m so glad I’m not the only one that was sad at the end of AI. (it seems like most people just thought the movie was crap and weren’t moved by it at all)

     (0)


  23. 23 Whatsthescenario

    It was a beautiful movie. Kind of predictable but I enjoyed the process just the same. I love how the mom was not the one against protecting him. She was so matter of fact about everything – Oh well, we found a wolfboy, let’s just raise him :-)

    I will say, the ending made me mad that even after she realized he waited for her, she chose to leave him again. Then we get the final shot of him building a snowman all alone. She promised to do that with him. How sad is that? Why couldn’t she stay with him and have the granddaughter leave? She could live out her years with him and maybe “release” him from waiting for her. Show him a different way of life or hook him up with someone else so that he is not lonely for the rest of his life.

     (0)


  24. 24 Andrea

    I went in not knowing what to expect of this movie, and even though I suspected it could make me cry, the cute made me lower my walls… And I ended up a sobbing mess with a broken heart.

    This is movie is not by any means perfect, but damn, it’s emotional grip on me was crazy and I’m willing to overlook the faults in the film.

    SJK does a wonderful job on this role, and I will never forget his “Don’t go” or how that tiny phrase broke my heart.

     (0)


  25. 25 rheina07

    I criedd (a lot!) when Suni yelled at chulsoo to leave her. I know it’s for his own good, but damn – why it should be like thattttt!!!!!!!!!!

    It take sometime for me to be able to accept that tragic moment. T.T

    and poor chulsoo, i wonder how he lived all alone and still patiently waiting for a woman – who seems forget of his existence.

    And, just a side note – I shocked when first saw Chul soo! I could not imagine that our flower boy REALLY able to look like animal.

     (0)


  26. 26 Mar

    Spoiler!

    My interpretation of the ending was that she did what she to protect him-the only place he would be able to live and have a purpose to live was there, waiting. Yes, he’d learn to live on his own; however, this plot is deriving meaning from the wolves mate for life thing. He was not going to find another mate. She could not live there alone with him; she has family, and that endangers him and the family. She says she will not sell the farm, to me that meant was going to protect him, that she would be making some arrangements for the future somehow. As he builds the snowman, alone, it’s sad, and he’s waiting for her to return, but it also indicates he has some agency, he wants to build a snowman so he does, without her. Life goes on.

     (1)


    • 26.1 JoAnne

      I agree with all of this, honestly, but my heart wants what it wants.

       (0)


      • 26.1.1 Mar

        of course it does! No one wants anyone to be alone. People go on without the love of their life all the time, and it sucks.

        Can you imagine having to make that decision, to walk away? Just heartrending.

         (0)


    • 26.2 solia

      my favorite most plausible analysis of the ending. thank you.

       (0)


  27. 27 kdramapedia

    I was just telling myself last nigh that I *have* to stop putting it off and finally sit down and watch it. Then I wake up to this post. The heavens want me to see this! Off to watch, thanks!

     (0)


  28. 28 missjb

    I like it but not loving it…. it’s abit simplier than I want to…

    SO many cliches drive the story and some character whom are too one dimensional

     (0)


  29. 29 ftlove

    I loved the acting – no doubt Song Joong Ki was fantastic, and my favorite part was the “Don’t go” as well.

    However, sadly to say, I find the story utterly boring. There were some nice parts – like how Park Bo Young find a sudden interest in him, and tries to train him like a dog.

    However, the fighting left me screaming. It was just too ridiculous for me to like it – and how he was cornered was just too…. bleh? I can’t put it in words.

    However, kudos to the both of the leads – because acting wise, it was perfect.

     (0)


  30. 30 Jennifer

    Thank you so much for the review!
    Such coincidence, I finished watching this movie a week ago and found myself thinking it’s a pity that there’s not a review on dramabeans. You must have heard my prayers! :)

    Anyway, I hadn’t expected A Werewolf Boy to be so emotionally gripping. I started watching it only knowing the title and the couple; at first, I even thought that the main char would be the granddaughter because (I still don’t get why) Park Boyoung plays both.
    I ended up as a sobbing mess though. Even though a lot of things don’t add up (like why it took Park Boyoung almost 50 years to return omfg >: so. sad.) but what does it for this movie are the feelings – I just can’t hate the parts that aren’t thought out because this movie got me right into the heart. It was so heart wrenching to see that Chulseo waited all those years for her, unchanging, having learned how to speak and god, when he showed her the guitar he had repaired, it just got me right into the gut. That, plus the quote that wolves only had one mate in their lifetime, turned me into a sobbing mess. As if them being torn apart didn’t hurt enough already, their reunion was so tragic as well T_T ugh.

    Also, I don’t get why they used Park Boyoung for both characters. Maybe to let Chulseo know that his love had returned? It doesn’t really make any sense to me though because in the ending scene he says that she hasn’t changed at all, that everything about her is still the same (my hearttt ;___; ). It was quite unnecessary imo to use the same actress so unless someone can enlighten me? (I mean, since he still has his wolf instincts and shit, he could probably recognize her by her scent right?)

    But rationalizing aside, since this movie is more about the heart anyway, I hadn’t expected A Werewolf Boy to be this good. The tragic ending got me right into the guts but only because I was so invested in our main couple. Also, kudos to Joongki. He only had like five lines in the whole movie but was able to speak through his eyes the whole time. He definitely stepped it up a notch with this movie.

     (0)


  31. 31 blegh

    okay, I’m just gonna be the buzzkill here and go right ahead and say it. this is a total rip off of Edward Scissor Hands. really nobody saw the resemblence? other than a boy with scissors for his hands we have a boy who is wild like a werewolf. the rest of the plot is just so much alike.

     (0)


    • 31.1 Mystisith

      You’re absolutely right. Other commenters quoted the movie “E.T” too for the child like (childish?) story.

       (0)


    • 31.2 kristi

      What buzzkill? SJK himself and the director have talked about Edward Scissorhands as a source of inspiration and reference. The festival organizers at Toronto, Busan, Vancouver, Hong Kong, etc. are all very much familiar with Tim Burton’s cherished film. Do you think they’d invite a mere “rip-off” to be showcased at their annual events?

       (0)


    • 31.3 Peridot

      I actually noticed the connection in my post above :)

       (0)


    • 31.4 JoAnne

      How is it a ripoff? There aren’t actually that many stories in the world. It’s all in finding a new way to tell them. Just so you realize – Edward Scissorhands is a ‘rip off’ of Beauty and the Beast. The stylized, dreamlike filming is an homage to the fairy tale itself. Beauty and the Beast is probably a rip off of some more ancient tale, too. Good stories can be retold in hundreds, thousands of ways. This was a good retelling, all in all. Plot holes, yes. Who cares? People walk out of that movie caring deeply about a fictional boy and his fictional love. That’s what making the movie is all about, isn’t it?

       (0)


      • 31.4.1 TS

        Exactly.

         (0)


      • 31.4.2 TS

        I cried so much at the end. I understand from the comments here that she left him because she couldn’t keep him, and yet, he could stay alone and be all right at the farm, but oh, even now, remembering it hurts.

        This was an amazing movie.

        Btw, I’m not sure it’s true wolves mate for life. I mean, if one of an alpha pair gets widowed, I’m pretty sure they’ll take another mate since only alphas in wolf packs mate and reproduce (any other pack member’s cubs get killed).

         (0)


        • 31.4.2.1 Felicia

          I did check up on it, and apparently, wolves really do stick to one. From what the article wrote, wolves will have one mate, and they will stay in a pack, which consists of their offsprings. So they are just like one whole big group of family. Since they will not be alone, they might not find another after their mate sadly pass away? I am not sure about that since it was not written about if one passes away.

           (0)


  32. 32 whilethemusiclasts

    I cried like baby at so many points throughout this movie’s second half, especially towards the end. Chul-soo’s “kajima” just tore me to pieces. Song Joongki is insanely on point, even with hardly any dialogue. I can’t wait for more projects from him. Enlistment isn’t that near, yeah????!

    Also, this film introduced me to the awesomeness that is Park Bo-young. I rushed to watch Speedy Scandal after watching A Werewolf Boy. That little lady is so very charming.

     (0)


  33. 33 whilethemusiclasts

    To add, first time I heard what the movie was going to be about, I was scared that it was going to be reminiscent of Twilight. I seriously rolled my eyes at it. But having seen it – and immensely enjoyed it – I’m glad it was more Edward Scissorhands than Twilight. Even the general aura and aesthetic of the film was gorgeous. Not Tim Burton looking at all, but the feel was there.

     (0)


  34. 34 alua

    I’m bookmarking your review until I watch (and review) Werewolf Boy myself… which will be next month! On the big screen! I’m sooooo excited…. and happy that my hunch that this stood a good chance to pop up at a film festival in London was right.

     (0)


  35. 35 jammy

    This was my favorite movie of 2012 along with Gwanghae :]
    I was wondering if you could write a movie review for ‘Miracle in Cell No. 7′.

     (0)


  36. 36 Carole McDonnell

    Great movie.
    Great review.
    And you’re so right: although the whole cliche Big Bad sub-plot made the movie somewhat imperfect, the film still grabbed your heart. Goes to show: a movie doesn’t have to be perfectly made to be loved.

    Thanks for the review.

     (1)


  37. 37 maxineleecho

    thanks for the great review HeadsNo2
    before i read it i watched the movie first :P
    and while reading your review at the “don’t go” part
    i cried liked a baby again

     (0)


  38. 38 sunnyyoo

    is it me or does the movie remind you guys of edward scissorhands?

     (0)


  39. 39 maxineleechoo

    yup both the blu-ray and the dvd versions have english subs :)

     (0)


    • 39.1 Ivoire

      Oh OK, thanks! :-)

       (0)


  40. 40 Anvesha

    Aww. I wanted to watch it but not anymore.

     (0)


  41. 41 DarknessEyes

    Thank god I didn’t watch this movie. I had heard it had a said ending, and as a result, I kinda stayed away from it. I was just sad from reading the recap, probably would have gone crazy watching the movie, poor Chul-soo…. TT_TT

     (0)


  42. 42 Rilakkuma

    Lol, seems like I’m always the only one who dwells on details as “It’s impossible for him to speak such accentless Korean.” and “How come they didn’t notice a boy in the barn, but they did get rid of the dogs/wolves. (Since the door was definitely closed when Su Ni opened it, and I don’t imagine him being able to close and open the door at that time…”The kind of details that bug me in any film unfortunatly… They tend to ruin things for me, though I did like this film in overall. ;)

     (0)


    • 42.1 Peridot

      You are not alone. I pay attention to such details as well, but I have to force myself to ignore them :)

       (0)


    • 42.2 Korazy Lady

      Normally those kind of details distract me when watching movies (thoughts of “yeah, like that would ever happen” always go through my mind.) But I think I was so mesmerized by seeing Song Joong Ki on the big screen that I overlooked a lot. There were many cliches, but there was also something so simple and pure to it that really tugged at my heartstrings and made me fall in love with it.

       (0)


    • 42.3 petmink

      The door was closed but not locked. They showed that he did know how to turn door knobs but closing the barn door would have been simpler.

       (0)


  43. 43 ceire

    Song Joong-ki is a terrific actor. Only after finishing the movie did I realize that he actually barely spoke throughout the whole movie – his performance was THAT intense.

    He’s truly one hell of an actor.

    Thanks for the review, HeadsNo2! It very much echoes my thoughts on the movie :)

     (0)


  44. 44 panshel

    I heart this movie. But it kills me that we don’t get a happy ending. How can she not go back for him!? How can she tell him she’ll go back for him and not go back for him!? I can’t understand. Damn melodramas. x_x

    Chul Soo is one of my all-time favorite characters along with Kim Boong Do and Enrique Geum. Chul Soo is just perfect — barely talks yet shows such devotion. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that werewolves mated for life (Phoebe: “He’s her lobster!”).

    I need to get my hands on the alternate ending. Because although the original ending between Grandma and Chul Soo was touching, it didn’t move me to tears, while I was a blubbering mess two scenes earlier when Suni abandoned him in the forest. I ship Joong Ki and Bo Young, so I think the alternate ending would have had more of an impact than the original ending.

    Nonetheless, A Werewolf Boy was not without its plot holes. So many unanswered questions: Since when were werewolves immortal? Why didn’t he age? How did he learn how to talk without anyone there to teach him? But most importantly, why didn’t she go back for him!? >_<

     (0)


    • 44.1 kumi

      Werewolves are not immortal, but they age much slower.

      If he could understand without words, why do you think he couldn’t have learned to speak by himself, from books?

      She left him, because they have become worlds apart after separation. She became kind of more attached to the things of this world, like this body (“What’s that monster in the mirror?” “I was young and beautiful, but now I’m old!”), or social status (“He’s not rich? OK, play with that guy and then leave him”, etc). While his love has stayed pure and unconditional.

      She left that place for him.

       (0)


  45. 45 theindek

    I have to say I almost NEVER cry at movies, but this one had me sobbing when she left him in the forest. This movie was so lovely and sad. I loved it thoroughly!

     (0)


  46. 46 Noelle

    Omg he waited! I haven’t even watched it and I want to cry already. That really does remind me of AI. She made him love her only to leave him in a f*****g forest. Where he goes on forever trying to find her only to end up frozen and defrosted to just want to see her again. BITCH.

    Tears man. tears…

     (0)


  47. 47 Fay

    My daughter and I went to see this when it was released in the States. She is not a weepy sort and I’ve never seen her cry over a movie. So, when the ending came, I didn’t want her to see that I was a teary-eyed, nose-running mess. Imagine how shocked I was to glance over and see this unemotional daughter sobbing uncontrollably. I still cry when I think of it.

     (0)


    • 47.1 Fay

      The movie, that is. Not her crying.

       (0)


  48. 48 Ace

    Skipped this movie even though I wanted to see how good SJK was as people kept raving about his performance. But since many other box-office hits in SK were disappointing for me (for example: Thieves!) because the writing was weak, I just wished for a review here in db so I’ll have an idea what happened. I tend to like movies that make me feel uplifted and smiling in the end, not confused or heartbroken. :)

    Thanks Heads for the review!

     (0)


  49. 49 nana_moose

    I really really wanted to watch this movie when it came out (especially when it had a showing in NYC, which is my homecity ;9), mostly because I freaking LOVEEE Song Joong-Ki, but missed it. So, I had to wait until a site put it up (and boy was that an achingly long wait T^T), so when I saw it finally up on my favorite drama website, I made the mistake of deciding on watching it in my school library the next day in the 5 hour gap between my 2 classes.

    This movie was just amazing, (I do agree that some of the events just seemed to be put there just because), and my love for Joong-Ki has grown so much because of it. Also, park Bo-Young’s My Prince is just so pretty, and by the time the ending came along, I was bawling tears. No lie; I was using the computer near by the wall at the corner of the library, and my friend was sitting next to me, watching me sniffle and cry, shoulders shaking while trying not to make any noise, and with my hair hanging like a curtain from the sides of my face and my hands in fists in front of my eyes and mouth.

    Whoop that ending just got the feels right in its core o.o

    But I love this movie ^^

     (0)


  50. 50 xcmk

    I will never forget him saying kajima TT^TT

     (0)


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