Directed by Jeon Yoon Soo, “Portrait of a Beauty” starring Kim Min Sun in the titular role and co-starring Kim Nam Gil, as her love interest, and Kim Yeong Ho, as her teacher, is a period piece based on the historical fiction novel, “Painter of the Wind”. In the novel, writer Lee Jeong Myeong twists history and asserts that famous Joseon painter Hyewon (born Shin Yun Bok) was actually a female (historians, however, say that Hyewon was undoubtedly male).
In the film, Kim Min Sun plays Hyewon and we watch as she keeps up the tricky charade of a woman posing as a man in royal court. We follow her as she falls in love, truly becomes a woman and paints with passion the scenes of everyday life. Kim Min Sun gives an even performance, she is a good actress and she doesn’t disappoint here. Kim Nam Gil and Kim Yeong Ho also gave performances that satisfied.
I enjoyed the way the film recreated Hyewon’s paintings in real life, showing where the inspiration may have come from. The film was photographed gorgeously and the colors vibrant, which is something I’ve grown accustomed to seeing in Korean period pieces. However, the plot unfolded unevenly and the characters lacked depth in places they desperately needed it. The flow of the film was odd as well, as scenes ended in the middle of action, leaving one to wonder how a situation was resolved. Histories of characters appeared at odd moments, bringing to light intent but without reason. The writers seemed to have forgotten that simply stating a fact does not give it the emotional leverage it needs to affect an audience. Just when I began to care about a secondary storyline, that begins far too late most likely due to the slow beginning, it ends.
There was too much action, too much intent but with no meaning. The film needed a balance between characterization and plot, which it did not achieve. Because of this, the movie cheated me into a few tears, though it was more about the situation than for the people involved. I would say, watch it, however. It is beautiful to see and it is an interesting crossing of lives. Whether you feel cheated out of your tears as well, you’ll find out.
“Portrait of a Beauty” is distributed by CJ Entertainment; stars Kim Min Sun, Kim Nam Gil, Kim Yeong Ho, Choo Ja Hyeon and Park Ji-il; Directed by Joon Yeon Soo, writen by Han Soo Ryeon, edited by Park Kok Ji; Shot in color on 35mm; Running time is 108 minutes.