In Gina Kim’s feminist love story Never Forever, Vera Farmiga’s vulnerable, sympathetic portrayal of housewife Sophie and her palpable chemistry with costar Haa Jung-woo allow audiences to forgive, if not accept, the film’s melodramatic plot elements. It seems unlikely that Sophie’s husband Andrew (David L. McInnis) would be driven to such despair by his infertility that he would try to kill himself, or that his wife’s eventual pregnancy would give him a sense of belonging that he never had as a second-generation Korean-American. It seems less likely that a woman as meek as Sophie would be so quick to jump into bed with another man, even if it is to save her marriage.
The motivations are thin, but Farmiga’s painfully unguarded performance keeps the film from degenerating into dismissible soap drama. Sophie visibly self-destructs as the boundaries that define her relationship with the man she’s hired to impregnate her become increasingly blurred. Korean star Ha struggles with the English dialogue, but is intriguingly masculine and defenseless as Farmiga’s illegal immigrant lover. Cinematographer Matthew Clark’s trembling, tightly-focused camerawork keeps the viewer uncomfortably close to the messy situation, and the terrifying brightness of Sophie’s townhouse in Brooklyn contrasts startlingly with the warm darkness of Jihah’s Chinatown hovel. Writer and director Kim’s deep investment in the subject matter is apparent, but consequently seems to be the source of the melodrama (and the positioning of husband Andrew as a monstrous, unfeeling archetype). The narrative isn’t perfect, but no one seems to have entered half-heartedly into Never Forever.
Opens April 11