Fantastic Fest Review: Burning

Another astounding addition to Korea's rich revenge legacy

South Korea has perfected the revenge thriller, so it was only a matter of time before great auteur Lee Chang-dong stepped up to the plate to join the likes of Park Chan-wook and Kim Jee-woon.

Bringing in Korean-American actor Steven Yeun, with Burning Lee molded a psychological masterpiece that will leave you full of doubt, dread, and searing questions about morality.

When Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) rekindles his childhood friendship with his old neighbor Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo), he didn’t expect it to go south so rapidly. The glittering magic spark between them immediately halts when Hae-mi returns from a trip to Africa with Ben (Yeun), a mysteriously rich boy who drives a flashy Porsche and makes pasta in his meticulously designed apartment. He’s an enigma – the Jay Gatsby to Jong-su’s Nick Carraway.

Hae-mi’s placement with these boys is just as perplexing. A kind and observing soul, she is passionate about African tribal dancing, cries at sunsets, and can fall asleep at any restaurant. She’s in between two men who don’t deserve her effervescent light, but her lonely heart pulls her toward these boys who take advantage (both willingly and unknowingly) of her pain.

Then she disappears: disconnecting her phone, changing the code to her apartment, and taking her elusive cat Boil with her. This crushes Hae-mi, who (misguided intentions aside) just hopes she is alive. However, she leaves a disjointed trail of breadcrumbs behind her, riddling Burning with ambiguity, creating a complex and utterly engaging work of art.


International Premiere
Thu., Sept. 27, 8pm

Fantastic Fest runs Sept. 20-27. For more news, reviews, and interviews, as well as our daily show with the podcast network, visit

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More by Jenny Nulf
Monkey Man
Dev Patel’s directorial debut is a gritty, nasty piece of work

April 5, 2024

Julio Torres channels dreams of toys, art, and immigration

March 22, 2024


Fantastic Fest, Fantastic Fest 2018, Burning, Steven Yeun, Lee Chang-dong

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle