Hong Sang-soo’s Right Now, Wrong Then is an exercise in formalistic mumblecore that mostly exists for its own sake.
Ham Chun-su (Jung Jae-young) is an acclaimed art-film director in Suwon for a retrospective of his work; due to bad planning, he has a day to kill, which he spends by creeping on women. After deciding that festival assistant Yum Bo-ra (Ko Ah-sung from Snowpiercer) would be too risky, Chun-su sets his sights on somber young painter Yoon Hee-jung (Kim Min-hee), trading on the fact that Hee-jung recognizes his name (even though she’s never seen his movies). They spend the day together, Chun-su flattering and hitting on her over coffee, dinner, and eventually a party at a friend’s place, where things fall apart.
The picture then resets itself and chronicles the same series of events from a slightly different angle, both literally in terms of camera placement and figuratively, as both Chun-su and Hee-jung act slightly different from before — Chun-su is even more of a manipulative asshole and Hee-jung is more receptive to his manipulative assholishness.
The many long, unbroken takes result in a film that runs about a half-hour longer than it needs to, and in the end, Right Now, Wrong Then is a two-piece puzzle that’s less than the sum of its parts.
Right Now, Wrong Then
Directed by Hong Sang-soo
Opens June 24, Metrograph
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 23, 2016