Under the Radar

After 'The Walking Dead,' Steven Yeun Went to South Korea and Made 'Burning'

Ah-in Yoo, Jong-seo Jun and Steven Yeun star in "Burning." (WellGo USA)

Steven Yeun's popular character Glenn Rhee was killed off at the end of season six of "The Walking Dead," and many fans think the show has never really recovered.

Yeun returned to his native South Korea and made "Burning" (out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital) with acclaimed arthouse director Chang-dong Lee. It's a surprising choice. Most actors grab a high-paying Hollywood gig after such a big TV role, but Yeun wanted to do more challenging work.

"Burning" is an elliptical, maddeningly vague mystery that takes the rough outline of a crime thriller but never offers any real resolution to the mystery. It's also a fantastic movie that has many rewards for viewers interested in something more challenging that the stuff we usually cover around here.

Very loosely based on the Haruki Murakami short story "Barn Burning" (in turn inspired by the William Faulkner story of the same name), "Burning" tracks a relationship between Jong-su (Ah-in Yoo) and Haemi (Jong-seo Jun). Haemi claims to have grown up near Jong-su when she picks him up at the store where she's working as a product girl.

Jong-su agrees to watch her (possibly imaginary) cat while she goes on a trip to Africa, and he's shocked when she returns with a new boyfriend named Ben (Yeun). Ben is a wealthy kid with no apparent job and a fancy flat in the elite Gangnam district.

Jong-su struggles to process this turn of events while he's also struggling to deal with his father's legal troubles caused by dad's assault of a government official. He claims he wants to be a writer inspired by Faulkner, but he doesn't really have a clue what he wants to write.

Haemi disappears, and Jong-su investigates. He believes that Ben has something to do with it, and his search leads to a climactic showdown between the men.

If you're looking for answers, director Chang-dong Lee isn't particularly interested in giving you any definite ones. He has made an achingly beautiful movie that features three amazing performances. Both guys see Haemi through their own distorted filters, and neither one is a relationship she should have bothered to pursue. What happens to her is a mystery, and that mystery (not its solution) is the point of "Burning."

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