The Concubine (2012, released 2021) 

A nobleman’s daughter is caught up in a love affair with a peasant and is thus forced to leave him behind. She later become the concubine of the king and bares him a son. After his death, his brother takes the throne. Machinations and power plays mixed with a love triangle make life complicated for everyone in the palace. 

Adapted by Soo-Mi Kim, written by Yoon-Jung Hwang, Dae-seung Kim, and Mi-jung Kim, and directed by Dae-seung Kim, The Concubine is a Korean period drama that clocks in at just over two hours. The story here is good and well-developed, but it is a tad overly long. If the viewer is into beautiful settings, amazing wardrobe, good acting, and a bit of a love triangle drama between people of different classes in bygone eras, this is the movie for you. If these things don’t appeal, perhaps something completely different from Korea is the ticket. Here however, the style and type of film this is is on point. It’s a bit long, but it’s well-written and well-directed, it’s got something here for all period film lovers and then a little bit more. 

The lead here is Yeo-jeong Cho who is mesmerizing in her part. She plays some of her character out in the open and some of her closer to the vest. She gives a performance that sells the movie and the struggle she is under. She is somewhat the lead in terms of story, but she is definitely the star. Playing another lead, the male lead, is Dong-wook Kim who comes off grating in just the right way for the part. Within a few scenes, he makes himself both a bit pathetic and a whole lot of disagreeable which is the point of his character, so that deserves major kudos. Playing another important character is Min-Joon Kim who goes through a variety of stages and is unrecognizable for a part of the film, showing that he could serious change himself to get the character where it needed to be. Also worth noting here is Ji-Young Park and the despicable, power-hungry king’s mother. She plays her almost like a cartoon villain, but holds back just enough to make her believable in the settings. The cast overall is stellar and they really get into their characters, helping the viewer go through the story with them. 

The Concubine is a stunning film with cinematography by Ki S. Hwang whose images are delightful and filled with mood. These images are perfect to showcase the cast, but also the costumes by Sang-gyeong Jo and the décor, art, and settings. This is a film that was clearly well-planned and well-put together with a serious attention to detail from all involved. 

The Concubine is a beautiful period film with a layered story of love and betrayal that while a touch too long is easy to watch for fans of the genre. There is a ton of talent behind and in front of the camera and the whole team clearly understood what they were creating here and came together to do so in an effective manner.