Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: Friend (2001)

Friend (Review)
Kwak Kyung-taek/Yu Oh-seong/2001
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...a very powerful and engaging drama about friendship."

The story of four friends from childhood to young adults, and the obstacles that strain and challenge their relationship.

Friend follows Joon-seok (Yu Oh-seong), whose father is a mob boss, Dong-su (Jang Dong-gun), whose father is an undertaker, Sang-taek, the shy bookworm, and Jung-ho, the class clown. The story is narrated by Sang-taek, but we mostly see the perspective of Joon-seok and Dong-su. They grow up together as children and fight together as teens, but see their relationship strain as they grow older. The relationship is especially tested when Joon-seok and Dong-su become rival gang bosses. The film builds very well to a strong climax and emotional ending, albeit slightly cliché.

Friend is a great film. I really enjoyed the story. The group of friends feel like an actual group of friends. This makes the drama feel much more authentic. You can really see when their happy and when their tested. Its overall theme worked very well, too. I even questioned the definition of "Friend". However, I think the film was a bit stretched with four friends. With two taking the center stage and one narrating, that leaves a character as a simple afterthought. Similarly, there's also a love subplot that never fully develops -- it serves a purpose, but could've been much more. Otherwise, this is a very powerful and engaging drama about friendship.

The acting is great from the entire cast. Yu Oh-seong delivers a really strong performance, and so does Jang Dong-gun. The film is shot very well, I enjoyed the cinematography. The music blends very well with the film; it has a minor role during most of the film, but has great placement during certain sequences. The English subtitles on the Amazon Prime Instant Video stream are great, very few flaws. Director Kwak Kyung-taek delivers a very genuine drama; Kyung-taek does an exemplary job using the film's theme.

Overall, Friend is a great drama. It had me hooked from beginning to end, and I was genuinely interested to see how this relationship would develop. It has a great focus on character, or at least the two lead characters, which makes the drama very powerful. A must-watch for fans of the genre.

Score: 9/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood, sex and brief nudity.

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