A Werewolf Boy – Movie Review :]
Werewolf boy, or as the Korean title goes 늑대소년 is a truly wonderful and heartwarming story of love, coming of age and in some aspects, fantasy. I downloaded the movie just for one reason-Song Joong Ki, and expected to have a good time watching but was so pleasantly surprised when I ended up glued and hooked to the screen for two hours straight! And needless to say, I watched it again right after finishing it. It’s now a part of my collection, going to be stored in my hard drive for a long time now.
Watching the movie, you encounter every type of emotion and end up smiling and crying altogether! It’s like a roller coaster ride where you can guess what’s about to come, you know the climaxes as they will be but with every scene, you end up emotionally moved to smiles and tears. It would be an understatement to say I loved this movie.
The story is rather simple, and that is its biggest charm. Every step, you feel the realistic outlook and workings in the setup. A girl, sad, reserved and angry at her circumstances meets the untamed, wild wolf boy and tames him. That in turn gives her something to be happy about, to be close to and to feel the feelings of friendship and love. Above all, it is a most beautiful love story. Yet, it is not just a love story and that adds so much more charm to it. It’s the story of one person finding out more about the world just like a new born baby, learning everything from scratch and trying to make sense of all that he sees and knows and another person’s journey of finding hope and love towards life once again.
There are spoilers ahead in the movie review, with scenes and emotions described in detail so if you don’t wanna be spoiled, I’d suggest running off and finding the movie to watch NOW. Believe me, you won’t regret it and like me, maybe fall in love yourself too!
The story is related by Sumi after she returns to Korea when she receives a phone call regarding the sale of her house there and goes back to her old home to spend a night there where she tells her granddaughter she lived for a ‘very brief’ time. Her grand daughter isn’t much impressed by the house, exclaiming it feels like a monster would jump out at them at any time. Sumi confesses that was also her own first impression of the house the first time she saw it. Her story, she says, begins 49 years ago.
49 years ago…
Sumi just moves into a remote farmhouse with her mother, brother and sister due to her sickly lung condition, as advised by a doctor. From the get go, we see her as a reserved but angry girl, not just at her lack of health, but also at the circumstances around her. However, she hides it well and only when she’s alone does she allow her true feelings to rise-as she writes in her diary the very first night, sobbing over the page. Among other words she writes, the ending is how she will simply die and she begins with even more hopeless words,
“In my dark shadow, where I exist with no meaning… ”
As she’s crying, she hears someone outside her window and thinks she sees something so runs off down to her sisters room, begging her to wake up but her sister simply shouts out to her mother and goes back to sleep. Her mother however, remains obliviously asleep and so Sumi heads out on her own, armed with a shovel and trembling to boot. She finds herself confronting a shadowy figure on the ground in their shed, which closely resembles a wolf, or a large dog. The figure growls and a scared Sumi drops her shovel and screams. The figure shoves past her and runs outside while her mother and sister, woken by her scream run to her rescue. A figure from the shadows watches the trio head back inside.
The next day, Sumi spots a suspicious dark figure hiding in a dark corner outside the house. Upon her mother’s prodding, the figure emerges from its hideout spot and both mother and daughter are stunned to realize it is a person hiding there. This raggedy, dirty and clearly cautious figure is Chul Soo (named so later by Sumi’s family), the wolf boy and his gaze and interest is totally fixed on the potato basket lying to a side. Sumi’s mother feeds him all the potatoes, much to Sumi’s chagrin, who asks her mother to just tell the ‘person’ to leave. To the surprise of both, the boy eats the potatoes with bare hands, ‘wolfing’ down on the food. And it is simply hilarious the way he tries to eat the basket once the potatoes are gone.
Much to her landlords chagrin, Sumi’s mother reports the boy to the authorities who are unable to find any missing people’s report that matches his and promise to look further into it. Till then, it seems Sumi and her family is to keep the boy at their place. Taking pity on the lonely boy, Sumi’s mother agrees. Even her little sister is frightened when she first sees him.
Anyone can tell what an oddball the boy is-apart from the fact that he won’t talk or respond, when Sumi’s mother instructs him to take a shower, the boy just stares at the water in amazement, placing his face at its tip, simply staring at his own reflection. Hilariously, Sumi’s mother ends up giving him a bath, scrubbing him on the back. She asks him to continue doing it on his own, only to find out he’s fallen asleep, hehe! And when it’s time for dinner, the boy just wolfs down on each and everything on the table, not even giving the others a chance to catch their breath, much less eat. This disgusts Sumi even more and she leaves the table, angry that her mother’s keeping the boy and Chul Soo watches her leave, before turning back to devour the rest of the food.
That night, when Sumi’s mother puts him in a room, instructing him to sleep, he walks around restlessly, stopping at the door, as if hoping to be let out. He’d turn to the window every time and finally ends up perched on a table by the window, calling out to the moon in his wolf manner. Sumi’s mother has to come in and drag him down, muttering how this isn’t what the night is for. All the while, my most favorite part is the way Sumi’s mother keeps hitting Chul Soo, like she would her own child and how he simply takes it.
Sumi declares she won’t eat together with ‘him’ anymore. Next day, she goes through the packed boxes trying to find her books, only to find out her box is at the bottom and two heavy boxes over it. However hard she tries, she can’t move them until she feels a shadow looming behind her. Turning, she sees Chul Soo approaching and gets frightened by his hunched look. Fearing the worst, she shouts at him to go away and calls out for help, grabbing at his hair when he’s close until he withdraws-holding the top two boxes she was trying to move. She immediately takes her box to the side and he drops the ones he’s holding, growling at her. Before she can respond, his attention is diverted-by corns on the table, hehe! Moreover, before she can eke out a thanks or an apology, he takes the corn she offers and heads back to his own corner.
Half thinking of her latest encounter with him, Sumi turns to her books but they’re both soon interrupted by the appearance of the landlord. He’s here to have a ‘proper goodbye’ with Sumi. Despite her protests, he keeps goading her and won’t let go of her hand. Until Chul Soo grabs his hand and shoves him back. Frightened by the look in Chul Soo’s eyes and his low growl, the landlord dashes off. This time, Sumi thanks Chul Soo who simply goes back to scratching the floorboards with his pencil.
However both these encounters generate a curiosity about him in Sumi and she watches his wild manners again at the dinner table from afar. That night, she has an idea, takes out the dog training manual she found amongst her books and studies it. Next morning, she boils some potatoes and heads off to find ‘him’ whom her mother tells her they’ve named as Chul Soo. Turns out, he’s out playing with her younger sister and the neighbors children. When their ball gets hit to far away, turns out Chul Soo gets there in a second to retrieve it. Except, when they ask him to throw it back, he does and it goes flying even more into the distance. Before the kids can take him to task for that, Sumi arrives with pockets full of potatoes.
She gives him simple instructions-to wait and not eat when she says ‘wait’ and only eat when she says ‘eat’. Except the instructions are lost on him and he grabs the first potato out of her hand and eats it up within seconds. The other kids wander off, not interested in the boring exercise but Sumi continues. The next time Chul Soo tries to grab the potato out of her hand, she holds on tight, shouting out instructions and in the ensuing struggle, Chul Soo ends up biting her hand. However, that brings him to his senses and he backs off. Sumi laments the cut on her hand, but tells him ‘good job’ on backing off and waiting. She continues the lesson-don’t eat until she says so, and wait when she says wait. This time, Chul Soo waits and she feeds the potato to him, so he ends up associating the words and actions together.
He backs off when she reaches out to pat his head but she tells him to stay still and pats him for doing well, telling him she’s not doing it because he’s good looking but rather because it’s annoying to eat together with him, hehe. All’s well until she realizes how his hair smells and now her hand does too. And so the lesson continues again.
That day her mother is surprised when Sumi joins them for lunch and everyone turns to protect their lunch before letting Chul Soo near the table. Sumi calmly eats her share, telling Chul Soo to wait, eat little by little. He follows her words and everyone around the table is left gaping as Sumi pats him on the head- ‘You did well!’ That night, she studies the manual more.
Onto even more activities-teaching Chul Soo to brush his teeth, put the blankets away in the morning, tie his shoes, put away his dishes in the sink. For him, receiving Sumi’s pat on his head becomes a highlight and whenever she forgets to do it, he puts his head down in front of her so she ends up doing it. That means something has to be done about the hair and so she cuts his short. As she’s wondering when he sleeps while she’s cutting, she turns to see him doing just that.
Mum comes out and asks Sumi to come along as they head to the market. Chul Soo springs up, wanting to follow. Sumi almost tells him to stay before she asks mum if Chul Soo can accompany them. At Sumi’s gesture to follow, he runs after her happily. In the market, they find Chul Soo standing at a food stall, wanting some bread but unsure how to get it. Mum pays for the bread. Before they can get to eating it, two steel bars fall down from an overhead bridge, one heading straight for the girls. Chul Soo turns them both away so he’s hit rather than them. Everyone gapes as he simply shrugs the bar off and turns back to his bread-which is still too hot to eat, hehe. One of the persons around mutters incredulously, “Shouldn’t he be taken to a hospital?!”
Thereon, Sumi makes sure she is part of the play party that heads out, joining the little kids and Chul Soo. Moreover, her expressions towards Chul Soo soften a lot. Chul Soo also smiles whenever he sees her. The neighbors child gives Chul Soo a potted plant. As they’re out mimicking sheep sounds, Chul Soo smiles at Sumi’s imitation and at the subsequent football match, she wins points by stealing the ball from Chul Soo after telling him to ‘wait’. That night, Sumi gives Chul Soo chopsticks to eat with and shows him the way. Her little sister asks how long Chul Soo will stay with them more. That discussion sends Sumi in to thought.
Meanwhile, their landlord is driving around drunk and crashes ino the neighbors farm, breaking their fence so she sheep run off. Chul Soo happens to walk by to collect a ball and picks up one of the dead sheep. After the landlord has driven away, unworried since ‘that guy can’t talk’, the owner of the farm runs out to see the commotion and Chul Soo deposits the sheep at his feet before going away.
Chul Soo waters his plant religiously. Sumi and his interactions continue where she is now teaching him to read and write. While he practices writing, he hasn’t much luck with sound. She notices his interest in her guitar in the corner and she plays a song from him that she wrote when she was a kid. The sound surprises him and he’s totally enraptured by Sumi playing the guitar and her singing. I think this is the first time where he totally sees her as herself. He stares at her, completely lost in the sight until she finishes. Then, he gradually leans forward and reaches his hand out-to pat her twice on her head, just like she always did for him.
The moment is cut short by a phone call regarding Chul Soo and Sumi quickly cuts off the call. Deciding to do something different, she raids her mothers closet until she lands on her hanbok. Hehe, mischief time ensues. She dresses him in the hanbok and proceeds to put make up on him and herself, making faces. Their activity is cut short by the arrival of her mother and their neighbors.
Sumi tries to hide behind a cloths rack but they are soon discovered-Chul Soo longingly looks at the potatoes the family is eating until a kid spies him and brings one forward as an offering. Sumi, with a made up cat face, tries to muster whatever dignity she can and walks away telling her family she’s off to rest since she isn’t feeling well. It’s so cute the way Chul Soo offers her his potato!
That night, Chul Soo sits on a chair, his gaze fixated on the bathroom door and trying not to sleep. He’s oblivious to everything around until Sumi walks out of there-which is when he immediately perks up and stands-his expression totally smiling. Sumi catches sight of him and smiles as she heads upstairs to her room. When he follows her up, she stops him with a smile outside her door. A few minutes later, Chul Soo lies down on the floor right there. Knowing he would be right outside her door, Sumi drags her bed to the door and sleeps right beside it so that they both end up sleeping on opposite sides of the door, but facing each other that night.
But things change irrevocably, taking a turn for the worst when one night, the landlord (his name is Ji Tae-Gosh I hate him!) comes by with a couple of his friends and sneaks up to Sumi’s room. He’s about to unlock her door with the set of keys he has when she opens it first. Chul Soo angrily watches from afar. Both head out where she tells Ji Tae to leave. A drunk Ji Tae tries to get her to come with him and his friends but she resists. Watching from the shadows is Chul Soo and Sumi tells him to calm down. However, when Ji Tae’s friends decide to join in and come to the yard, Chul Soo angrily sniffs the air.
Sumi manages to break free by biting Ji Tae who shoves her to the side but that sends Chul Soo over the edge and transforming into a wolf, he attacks the men and sends them flying. Sumi watches wide eyed as Chul Soo faces Ji Tae. He’s about to finish the deed when Sumi yells at him, “Wait!”
Chul Soo draws back, transforming back to his human appearance right in front of Sumi’s eyes.
Ji Tae calls the cops and wants Chul Soo sent away but Sumi refuses to sell out Chul Soo and calls out Ji Tae on his dubious standing and tells him to cut it out. Losing his cool, Ji Tae tells them to all get lost. Sumi offers to do it all but then that would also mean bad things surface for Ji Tae so she warns him not to mess with their family or Chul Soo. Sh heads upstairs and Chul Soo follows her. She asks him what happened before but before he can answer, her mother and a policeman come to take Chul Soo away. Downstairs, in a mad huff, Ji Tae breaks her guitar and trashes the room.
The police refuse to get involved much and thereon Chul Soo is taken back to the house where he is put away in a room in the shed. As they’re clearing out the space, Ji Tae comes across some information about Chul Soo’s origins and goes to see someone. Thereon, Chul Soo is kept in the room with only one window facing the house where he stays perched all day, hoping to catch a glimpse of Sumi. Sumi sits outside when she has to study, facing his window but has to order him to sit down and stop staring, lest he keep standing there all day. It’s telling the way he immediately perches up moments later, to see her again.
When her mother leaves the key under a potted plant and heads away, Sumi heads in to meet him where he immediately shows her a sketch of a girl with long hair. Sumi laughs and asks if that is supposed to be her and he shows her another sketch, of a hand with a guitar. Sumi realizes he is asking her to play for him again except, she no longer has the guitar. She takes him and they both head out to the fields where she tells them they will race to a place on the count of three. She runs off after two and Chul Soo follows, overcoming her and getting ahead really fast. However, Sumi’s condition kicks in and before long, she collapses on the ground, unconscious. Chul Soo runs to her rescue and takes her home but no one’s there. He runs to the neighbors estate but the little girl there tells her no one is home here either. Before running off to find someone else, Chul Soo stops and pats the girl on her head twice. These little gestures show his true soft character. Finding no help anywhere, Chul Soo runs around the whole area trying to find someone.
Night falls and a search party is sent out for Sumi and Chul Soo, with everyone but Sumi’s family believing the worst of Chul Soo. They find both of them in the forest, Chul Soo watching over Sumi. However, here Ji Tae and his new accomplices come into play and they take Chul Soo in forcibly. Before long, new people crowd the house-intent on studying Chul Soo and regulating his behavior in an attempt to determine whether he is a ‘threat’ or not. They put him in chains and chain his collar to the floor so he may never be able to escape. It is heartbreaking the way he is treated like an animal when all he’s ever shown is compassion and desired for affection and love. He stares out the window at the house. The debate to kill Chul Soo is supported by Ji Tae and another man but Sumi and her family reject it.
The next morning, before Sumi heads to the doctor’s, she goes to see Chul Soo, who stares at her expectantly through the window. His happiness at her arrival to see him is cut short by her exit right after she leaves the food and although she tells him she’ll be back, the sight of her retreating back sends him into a panic and he tries to follow her. Before anyone can take any extreme measures and hurt him, she calls out to him, “Wait!”
The words have an immediate effect and he backs into the room quietly. One of the men warns Sumi of consequences if anything similar were to happen again but Sumi warns them not to dare do anything when she’s not around.
That night, Chul Soo sits around in peace and the men watching him are surprised by his behavior. Ji Tae, listening in to their conversation is not happy with the way things are heading-which might lead to Chul Soo being set free.
Days pass and Chul Soo sits in his corner, waiting and at times crying for Sumi to return.
After getting a clean bill from her doctor, Sumi hurries home where a sleeping Chul Soo wakes up at the sound of footsteps and eagerly watches the door, where Sumi appears. And yet he keeps sitting there, impatience evident in his trembling, waiting for Sumi to give him the order to stop waiting. She does and he immediately springs up and approaches her. She hugs him and he stands there with her, closing his eyes.
The men watching him are about to give a positive ruling-Chul Soo has shown more feeling than they anticipated and killing him would be murdering an innocent until Ji Tae, not knowing what else to do, accuses Chul Soo of attacking and eating sheep-like a monster. Sumi tells him to stop lying and they ask the neighbor whose sheep fled that night. The neighbor tells them he never saw Chul Soo eat, but he was there that night and doesn’t believe Chul Soo did that but Ji Tae snaps impatiently.
Sumi watches Chil Soo standing at his window and goes out to him. Yet when he reaches out his hand to pat her head, she moves back. She angrily asks him if it was really him at the farm and his hand falls. Oooff. Heartbreak!
That night, the neighbor approaches Ji Tae, calling him out on his lie but Ji Tae hits him on his head. He takes him back to his farm and dumps the body there, then heads over to Sumi’s where the lights go out-courtesy to his handiwork. He hits another guard down and opens the locks to Chul Soo’s door.
Inside, he ‘talks’ to Chul Soo and notices the guitar drawing on his table. When Chul Soo isn’t too keen on his talk, he ekes out, “The guitar, you know where the guitar is!” Chul Soo backs away as he continues how Sumi hasn’t been very happy now that her guitar is gone since she can’t sing anymore and might even end up sick or die. He tells Chul Soo the farmer took away the guitar and that it’s a secret but Sumi doesn’t like Chul Soo. He tells him to go and find the guitar, maybe then Sumi will like him a bit.
By the time the lights go back on, Chul Soo has disappeared. Ji Tae runs in just at that time, saying Chul Soo has run away and is headed to the farmers house. There, he ransacks the house, looking around for the guitar. When everyone arrives outside, they hear a scream. In reality, Chul Soo is inside, showing the woman a drawing of his guitar, as a means to ask her for it but she’s too terrified of him and screamed. Getting no response from her, he looks in the drawers until the woman tries to stop him and latches onto him. He shoves her aside but that sends her flying out the door onto the ground below.
Sumi approaches Chul Soo, telling the others she will talk to him. As she approaches him, he holds up the drawing and Sumi calls him to her, telling him the guitar isn’t there. Just as he’s about to take her hand, shots are fired near his feet.
Ji Tae, frustrated with the non-action has decided to take matters in his own hands. Chul Soo growls but Sumi tells him to wait. She manages to stop Ji Tae but Ji Tae shoves her aside and starts beating her up. That springs Chul Soo into wolf mode and he launches at Ji Tae, biting him in the neck and killing him. Meanwhile the shots fired hit him on a leg. Sumi watches him with tears in her eyes and he looks around to see everyone looking at him fearfully except her. The men tell him to calm down and come to them but he runs to Sumi and picking her up, he runs off into the forest. Sumi clings to him and closes her eyes. Behind them, the order is given to find him and kill him.
He brings her to an underground cave where there is also a waterfall. As he puts Sumi down, she looks at him, back to human self and sees the wound on his leg. He brushes away her tear and she ties up his leg. She whispers to him,
“Chul Soo ya, you really are a monster. But it’s okay. Even if you’re a monster, I’m okay with it!”
She collapses on his shoulder and he puts her down on the ground, covering her with leaves to keep her warm. Then he lies down behind her and puts his arm over her.
Sumi awakes to the sound of gunshots and realizes the imminent threat heading for them. As she’s heading towards them, she realizes Chul Soo is following her. She begs him to hide, she’ll go and tell them he ran away so he should hide. ‘If you’re caught now, you’ll die!’ But none of her pleas work as he continues to follow her so taking a deep breath, she shouts at him, “Go. Get lost! I hate you so GET LOST!” Yet with each word, you can see she’s hurting herself as much as she’s hurting him.
Stunned by her words, he reaches out his hand to touch her but she slaps it away, calling him dirty. He puts his own head forward for a pat but she shoves him back and ends up slapping him. That causes her to cry even more and this time, she reaches out as if to touch his face and apologizes, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry Chul Soo!”
Sobbing, she backs away and tells him she’s going and not to follow her. Chul Soo looks at her with a stricken expression and pleading eyes as he whispers, “Don’t… go!”
Hearing the words from him-the first time he’s ever spoken, and the poignancy of the words ‘Don’t go’ sends Sumi spiraling into sobs but she’s no choice but to turn away and she backs away, throwing a rock at him and yelling at him to go away. The first time he ever speaks and the first words he ever says are don’t go, yet Sumi has no choice but to leave him!
She turns and walks away, turning back to look at him as she walks away. He stands rooted there, watching her leave with tears streaming down his eyes and blood pouring out from the wound on his face where Sumi hit him with the rock.
Sumi heads back to the search party and tells them Chul Soo left her and ran away. And as they take her back home, she keeps staring at her hand with regret-the hand that slapped Chul Soo. The people finally leaves believing her words and ask her to let them know if he ever reappears but Sumi tells them she is also leaving soon. The whole family pack their belongings and Sumi sits in the shed, contemplating what to write on the piece of paper. She finally writes something and then walks away, sobbing.
Years later, she has returned now and spends the night at her old house. Unable to sleep, she sits on their old sofa and fishes out something from between the cushions-it’s a bubble gum which presumably Chul Soo had been looking for once, long ago. She hears movement outside and heads out to the shed. The first time she approaches the door to Chul Soo’s old room, she turns around at the last minute and almost heads back inside. But she changes her mind, heads to the door and opens it.
Inside, Chul Soo, the same as before, is sitting there and looking at her. Without a word, he reaches out n hands here an old looking folded note-the one she left for him. she opens it and reads the words she had written back then. “Wait for me! I’ll come back again.” Tearily, she asks if he was waiting for her and he nods.
She hugs him and tells him that she moved on with her life, met a man, fell in love and became such an old woman already but he tells her she’s still the same. “Your hands, your lips, your eyes. They’re still beautiful. I missed you… a lot.” He speaks slowly but unhesitatingly.
She lies in his bed as he reads out a story to her. She praises his reading and falls asleep to his voice.
In the morning when she wakes, she finds him gone. She sees his workbooks and drawings on the table. She tells her granddaughter that they should leave now and drive away. As they’re driving away, they receive a call from the prospective buyer and Sumi tells him she won’t sell the house. In the background, the song she sang Chul Soo is playing. As they leave, a lone figure watches them leave from afar.
This movie does brilliantly for me. Yes, there are glaring shortcomings, there’s a bit that you realize doesnt match up but its all trivial stuff after everything that does work out for the show. you find yourself immersed in the emotions and characters and everything else kind of fades away into the background. It’s not just a love story-yes, there is love but its got so many different angles to it. There’s the name itself then-werewolf boy, but really, is Chul Soo the real werewolf in this movie? A werewolf is a wild, untamed and predatory beast, but does that fit Chul Soo? What about the ‘people’ around and their actions? After all, the only reason Chul Soo ever goes violent is because someone threatens Sumi and tries to hurt her. And to the end, he remains such a sweet and caring person. It’s like watching a new born baby slowly adopt to his surrounding,s to learn to love and feel compassion, to help others and to place them above ones self. Mind it-I didn’t use any negative words-no hate, or dislike or anger comes to him naturally. It’s like he learns the best of the world from Sumi and her family, and the worst-killing Ji Tae and becoming the ‘werewolf’ comes simply in retaliation to the evil he’s brought face to face with. And that begs the question once more- Was Chul Soo really the werewolf here? And what truly was the werewolf?
Posted on March 8, 2013, in Asian Cinema, English Cinema, Entertainment, Korean Cinema, Potpourri, Recaps, Uncategorized, Written Excerpts and tagged best bud, diary, Drama, entertainment, Fiction, friends, kdrama, life, love, misc, miscellaneous, musings, random, reflections, Relationships, Romance, Song Joong-Ki, stories, story, thoughts, Werewolf, Writers Resources, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.