We’re not entirely sold on Vera Farmiga. She does look remarkable, like some sad-eyed Slavic Madonna, but watching her on screen, we’re ever conscious of how hard she’s acting â€” it often leaves us at a remove. "Never Forever," the second feature from director Gina Kim, rests entirely on Farmiga’s charms, which may explain our ambivalence to the film. A Korea-US co-production, "Never Forever" is a melodrama with more in common with Korean mainstream cinema than American arthouse fare. Farmiga stars as Sophie Lee, a Caucasian woman trying to be the perfect Korean-American wife to her husband, Andrew (David McInnis). Demure, loving and in every way accommodating, she’s even adopted the strict Christianity practiced by Andrew’s family…but she’s yet to conceive a child, a fact that’s caused Andrew to fall into depression. Out of desperation, she strikes up a bargain with a stranger she spies at the fertility clinic, Jihah (Ha Jung-woo), a Korean man who turns out to be an illegal immigrant barely managing to scrape together a living. (He does live in an awfully cute little Chinatown studio, though.) She pays him for sex; if she conceives, she gives him $30,000 and never sees him again. Unless, of course, they fall in love â€” but they would never do that, would they?
Of course they would.
The film is problematic less because of the soapy aspects of the story (though Andrew’s reaction when he inevitably discovers the affair is right out of a bodice-ripper) and more because the character of Sophie is a construct that never comes together. Dressed in ridiculous ruffled and beribboned outfits, her blond hair curled in ringlets, she looks like a china doll, but all of the anvil-subtle signifiers in the world don’t explain how her character ended up helplessly submerging herself in an impossible role. For a film that goes into scarcely tread territory in terms of race, "Never Forever" remains broad in its readings â€” Sophie is a trophy, a blond-haired, blue-eyed piece of the American Dream, but whose American Dream, exactly? If Andrew is such a good Korean son, such a pillar of the community, then how’d he end up marrying a white chick? And who the hell is Sophie supposed to be, behind that blank, wide-eyed gaze? Without any apparent interpersonal relationships of her own, having previously lived only to please her husband, she’s a figure out of a Douglas Sirk film, albeit one with occasional subtitles and more sex.
+ "Never Forever" (Sundance)