Cinemas and streaming services are full of films like this. But, far from being something unmissable and innovative, Ballerina has some peculiarities that can make it pleasant to watch, at least for some. Above all, the protagonist: Jeon Jong-seo.
Cinemas and streaming services are full of films like this. Of films with lethal protagonists and with bloody revenge to carry out. Thanks to the extraordinary success of John Wick and similar, certainly, which have also contributed to imposing not only a genre, but also an aesthetic. And yet it should also be remembered that the theme of revenge, in the East, and especially in Korea, has been pursued with a certain consistency since the early 2000s, thanks to the trilogy of Park Chan-wook (but not only).
In short, it is not surprising today that Netflix propose a film like Ballerinawhere there is the usual, lethal protagonist (a professional bodyguard) who carries out the usual, bloody revenge in the context of a film with hyper-realistic violence, hyper-saturated colors, and the prevalence of neon lights.
Skip and move on to something else, then? Well, not so soon, perhaps.
Far from being something unmissable and innovative, Ballerina has some peculiarities that can make it pleasant to watch, at least for some.
First of all, the protagonist of the film is Jeon Jong-seo. If you are among those – lucky or far-sighted, depending on the case – who have seen the beautiful Burning by Lee Chang-dong, you cannot help but remember her, thanks to a very well written character, played with intensity and also a wonderful scene like the one dancing at sunset to the notes of Miles Davis.
It must be said that in this too Ballerina the young Korean actress – who thanks to Burning he had made his debut in cinema – it proves an innate talent, and the ability to express herself as an actress with very few words, using expressions and body to convey sensations and moods, as well as a completely natural magnetism.
In a stylized and essential film (also, thank goodness, in the running time: everything runs out in 93 agile minutes) Jeon Jong-seo moves with grace and charm, very well supporting a story made up of very few words and many actions, very far – to give an easy example – from the aesthetic and narrative baroqueness of Kill Boksoonto cite a similar and compatriot title
Se Lee Chung-hyundirector and screenwriter of Ballerina, has the intelligence to work in subtraction – if we can say that of a film of this genre – knowing that he can rely on his protagonist (with whom he had already worked in his previous film, The Callthis one too Netflix) to keep the structure up, it must also be said that from the writing point of view it manages well a narrative core definitely in line with the times we live in.
In its own way, in the way perhaps of films like A promising woman, Ballerina it is indeed a feminist film, which talks about sisterhood, about radical female recovery in the face of male violence.
I won’t go into details, since some might not want to see the film’s plot ruined even in its most obvious and not at all spoiler-y details, but I will limit myself to saying that the protagonist’s task, in Ballerinais to avenge the death of her best friend, who committed suicide because she was under intolerable pressure.
Director Lee has the merit of not making the film’s feminism a heavy ideological ballast, letting the actions and reactions speak for themselves, but above all that of getting the timing and rhythms of a film where action plays a role that is perhaps smaller than one might expect, and even more so a series of photographic and directorial choices that make Ballerina appreciable from an aesthetic point of view but almost never aestheticizing.
Some shots in particular (almost all long shots, but not only) remain in the eye, regardless of their charm Jeon Jong-seo: and for a film like this, perhaps, that’s no small thing.