Needing a quiet, relaxing environment in which to complete the script for his latest film, well-known director Kim Jung-rae heads to a largely deserted seaside resort with his friend, Won Chang-wook, and Won's beautiful girlfriend, Kim Mun-suk. Tensions quickly develop when Kim and Mun-suk become romantically involved with one another, leaving the erstwhile Won as essentially odd-man-out. Yet, terrified of making any kind of long term commitment, Kim backs away from Mun-suk at a crucial moment, causing a serious rupture in their relationship. It`s only after a second woman comes into the picture that Mun-suk returns to the beach town, further complicating Kim's already complicated life - though providing possible fodder for the script he`s having such a hard time completing.
Slow-moving, episodic and hypnotic, the Korean drama "Woman on the Beach" is wonderfully perceptive about human nature and the multi-faceted and complex ways in which people relate to one another. It's virtually impossible to pigeonhole any of the characters since they often act and react in ways that surprise and intrigue us. Director Sang-soo Hong relies largely on extended conversations to tell his story, an approach which allows the drama to unfold in a thoroughly naturalistic fashion, without having to resort to melodrama or contrivance to get its points across. To that end, the movie is filled with numerous seemingly irrelevant, off-the-cuff moments (including the final scene) that add immeasurably to the verisimilitude of the piece. As a result, every moment in the film feels unscripted and real, an illusion greatly enhanced by the excellent performances of Seung-woo Kim, Hyun-jung Go, Seon-mi Song and Tae-woo Kim.
Finally, the shuttered hotels and sparsely populated beaches and boardwalks provide an eerily appropriate backdrop for this tale of an individual so haunted by the demons and ghosts of his own past that he finds it difficult to live in the present.