Director: Huh Eunhee
Starring: Yoo Dong Sook, Won Tae Hee, Kang Seok Ho, Byun Ji Yeon
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Korean director Huh Eunhee tackles the controversial subject of the pornographic film industry in her first, full length feature film, My Heart Beats. Huh’s 20 years of experience in all aspects of the US and South Korean film industries, as well as her part time work in the American adult genre, gives My Heart Beats real credibility and Huh’s self-penned script is sensitive and insightful.
The story centres on Yoo Juri (Yoo), a 36-year-old English Literature professor who teaches university students. She is told by the head teacher that her next module to cover will be Feminism in Erotica, an area Juri knows very little about, due to her total lack of sexual experience.
In order to research the subject, Juri watches several pornographic films and, desperate to lose her virginity, resolves to star in one herself. Conveniently, Juri’s old friend Myung Sook (Byun) runs a production company which specializes in that field, though she has strong reservations about casting the naïve professor and displays a condescending attitude towards Juri’s controversial goal. However, she eventually agrees, following relentless harassment from her friend.
After several weeks of reading sex manuals, strict dieting and exercise, filming is scheduled to begin and Juri is introduced to JJ (Kang), the easily exasperated director and her handsome young co star, Byul (Won), with whom she quickly becomes infatuated. He, in turn, grows to appreciate her natural, unpretentious qualities.
Juri and Byul’s intensifying attraction to one another during the film shoot causes major problems on the production, as JJ and Myung Sook, who clearly have unrequited feelings for their stars, become increasingly jealous.
Inexplicably, Byul’s body is covered in scars and he rarely speaks, but Won’s facial expressions convey his character’s thoughts so well, especially during the passionate scenes, that words are unnecessary. The script implies that Byul works in the industry only to fund his studies and that his departure for university is imminent.
Before this eventuality, the green eyed monster propels JJ to dismiss Byul and bring in a new partner as punishment for Juri, thereby exerting his authority over her once again.
By the film’s conclusion, Juri’s dramatic journey of self discovery is complete. As a sexually naïve and awkwardly bumbling woman, she is initially ridiculed in lectures by her students, but Juri later asserts herself against their judgemental attitudes, and those of the faculty, once her secret is revealed to them.
Huh uses the frequently vilified pornographic film industry as a backdrop for this feminist tale, which hammers home a worthwhile message about double standards in society regarding women who express their sexuality fearlessly in the pursuit of happiness.
The entire cast give believable performances, but sadly My Heart Beats will serve as a swansong for talented leading actress Yoo Dong Sook, who passed away before its release.
My Heart Beats is full of mature black humour, plus numerous sex scenes, and although the material is treated in a tasteful and intelligent fashion, it would therefore only be suitable for adult audiences.