Never Forever

Sundance Film Festival 2007 (World Premiere Dramatic Competition)Marred by preposterous storytelling and fake ending, Gina Kim's “Never Forever” is nonetheless a nicely directed and shot romantic drama centering on a triangle of two Korean men and a white woman who comes between them.

A huge gap prevails between Kim's skills as a writer and as a director. It's highly recommended that Kim change the film's banal title into something more precise, a title that will do better justice to her narrative.

The film's subject, an interracial marriage based on love but damaged by the husband's sterility in a culture that places strong emphasis on procreation and family values, is timely, but Kim's narrative gets worse and worse as it goes along. Moreover, the upbeat denouement, set years later, is too much of a tucked-on feel-good closure that negates the predominantly downbeat and ambiguous tone of the rest of the text.

Vera Farmiga plays Sophie, a faithful wife in love with her rich Korean-American husband who's under pressure from him, his family, and surrounding culture to bear children. In a desperate act of love and self-sacrifice, she courts an illegal Korean immigrant for a business transaction. He'll get paid $300 for each and every sexual act, and $30,000 in cash if and when Sophie gets pregnant.

At first, the couple stick to the strict rules set by Sophie. Unbeknownst to her hubby, she grabs a taxi cab to frequent the alien's apartment in New York's Soho on a regular basis. (Using the same taxi company is not the most logical act for a thriller…) Upon arrival, she strips, they make passionless sex, she pays and then promptly leaves–without uttering a single word.

However, human nature being what it is, before long, Sophie develops real feelings for the man and falls for him sexually as well as emotionally.

With meticulous attention to detail, director Kim arranges every shot with a precise and calculating (but not manipulative) eye, building step-by-step tension and even urgency. While her story is rich in melodramatic detail, her filmmaking is lean, precise, and elegant. For a while, the disharmony between subject and style creates an interesting tone, right down to a climate of extreme repression where the couple's sexual energy is nearly combustible.

Ultimately, though, the film is saved by Vera Farmiga's incredible performance as Sophie. At first, her ethereal beauty, crystal blue eyes and porcelain skin convey fragility and give the appearance of a doll, but gradually, she develops strength and determination as a woman in closer touch with her libido if not emotions. As the counterpart to her two handsome leading men, Farmiga shows mastery over Sophie's gradual physical as well as emotional transformation.

The insightful art direction and costume design are extremely accomplished for what seems to be a low-budget indie. If only Kim the scripter could write a sharper dialogue and come up with a more proper conclusion. Even so, the strong acting and nice production values make “Never Forever” a perfectly watchable, if not memorable, chick flick, one with a number of steamy sex scenes.


Running time: 105 minutes

An Andrew Fierberg/Vox3 Film production
Produced by Andrew Fierberg, Joon-dong Lee, Chang-dong Lee
Director-Writer: Gina Kim
Cinematography: Matt Clark
Editing: Pete Beadreau
Music: Michael Nyman


Vera Farmiga, Jung-Woo Ha, David McInnis, Hwa-Si Lee