No Regret



Instantly worthy of attention by dint of its subject matter alone, "No Regret" is a rare South Korean gay-themed drama that has apparently attracted no small degree of controversy in its native country. Leesong Hee-il's film, clearly influenced by Hollywood melodramas of the 1950s, is ultimately more interesting for its sociological than dramatic qualities. But it offers a vivid and realistic-seeming depiction of its country's gay subculture.

The central characters are Sumin (Lee Yeong-hun), a young man newly arrived in Seoul after leaving his remote orphanage and now working as a driver; and Jaemin (Lee Han), a wealthy young business executive who he meets on the job. The closeted Jaemin, who is engaged to be married, propositions the handsome Sumin, but his overtures are rejected.

They later meet again at a "host bar," a gay club that combines such activities as karaoke and prostitution, where Sumin has taken a job servicing the patrons. The two engage in a paid-for assignation, with Jaemin promptly becoming romantically obsessed. A tentative relationship ensues, leading to various complications including class issues, among other things.

The filmmaker's screenplay is most effective in its detailed depiction of the South Korean underground gay scene, which helps to compensate for the murky psychological underpinnings of the central characters. But it unfortunately lapses in the melodramatic final reels featuring an out-of-the-blue plot twist involving a kidnapping.

The performances by the two leads are excellent, as is the HD photography that was necessitated by an obviously low budget.