Korean Movie Review: My Annoying Brother

Friday, May 05, 2017


My Annoying Brother, directed by Kwon Soo Kyung, came out in late 2016, promising a bromantic comedy about estranged siblings. In the film, Jo Jung Suk plays the loser older brother Doo Shik, who gets released from prison after pleading his release to take care of his injured brother Doo Young, played by Do Kyung Soo (D.O.), a promising judo athlete blinded during a match.

While the premise sounds kind of depressing, the promotional material released for the film highlighted wacky humor and brotherly bonding, with no hint of underlying pain. Indeed, during the first half of the film, the brothers reluctantly move under the same roof and clash in every way until they slowly begin to tolerate and eventually make peace with each other. Doo Shik becomes a more responsible hyung, while Doo Young slowly starts to open up again. Things seem to move towards heartwarming bromance.

However, almost as soon as brothers bury the hatchet and start bonding, a sudden melodramatic twist throws us for a loop. No longer a pitiful tragicomedy, this actual tragedy reveals hyung's terminal illness - a blow that seems to come out of nowhere. Reformed Doo Shik then decides to hide it from his baby brother, in order to convince him to compete in the paralympics. Things go as well as expected: Doo Young brings home the gold, but by then hyung has died, relaying his final thoughts 'we'll meet again' via a voice recorder. It's an emotional conclusion to a film that really didn't prepare you for such a harrowing experience.

While the two halves of the film are not bad on their own, the tonal shift certainly is jarring and sudden, especially since you don't expect to be watching a tearjerker. I personally felt disappointed that humor turned out to be such a small part of the story, limited to only some here-and-there physical comedy and drive-by characters. Then again, I didn't take much time to read up on the film's premise as I was mostly interested in seeing Jo Jung Suk and, to lesser extent, D.O. So maybe the signs were there and I was just blinded by the promise of bromance. Wouldn't be the first time.

What makes the film enjoyable despite the sudden change in genre, however, are the performances. Jo Jung Suk portrays lowlife Doo Shik with enjoyable cockiness and humor, but it's during heavier moments when he shines, bringing depth and vulnerability to the character. The scene where he breaks down in the hospital lobby is quite impressive and somber. Meanwhile, D.O. holds his own throughout and delivers several heartwrenching moments in the final scenes of the movie. So although I shed no tears myself, I was nevertheless moved by the many tears of the two actors. 

I was a bit disappointed to see Park Shin Hye being underused, though. Still she plays a fairly likable character who balances the overwhelming macho energy with some optimistic female spirit. Kim Gang Hyun also appears, playing an unorthodox pastor with many part-time jobs.

Admittedly, My Annoying Brother is somewhat of a confusing experience, but what it lacks in consistency it makes up with a lot of heart and thoughtfulness. But even with all things considered, I can't say I find the entire film memorable and the shift to melodrama did let me down. I don't think I wasted my time by no means, but also didn't get what I signed up for and that ended up affecting my opinion the most.

Rating: C

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