In a nutshell: A character study of twin brothers struggling with family obligation and self-identity, cleverly delivered via a fast-paced, cops versus drug dealers, action film. The cast is small, the sets are seedy and worn, the camera work is straightforward. Which means it’s the acting that pulls us in, the story that entertains, the characters that enthrall. From the cold and violent opening to the quiet and tender close, the twins’ struggle with each other and themselves had my heart in my mouth and my nails well bitten. Definitely worth the watch.
Spoiler free below…
A bit more detail: The story is structured around cat and mouse games between a greasy and ambitious drug lord, Go Suk-min (Ryu Seung-soo), and the police. Mr. Go is slimy and immoral and clever, which leads to a lot of delicious mind-games and breathless chases. But, as the title suggests (see below), it’s the struggle between twin brothers, Do Eun-chang and Do Shin-woo, that brings the real meat and mystery. What’s the reason for the tension between them? Is it fixable? Are they fixable? Can they survive, not only Mr. Go’s games, but the roadblocks they throw up for themselves?
“Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. […] What the naked eye perceives as a single star is actually a binary star system, consisting of a white main-sequence star of spectral type A1V, termed Sirius A, and a faint white dwarf companion of spectral type DA2, called Sirius B.” (wikipedia)
Suh Joon-young is the reason this drama-special first caught my eye. He gave powerful performances as King Sejong’s son in Tree with Deep Roots and as the young version of Uhm Tae-woong’s character in The Devil. They were both smaller roles, but he packed so much into his characters that they gave strong boosts to the bigger roles his were supporting. (Would King Sejong’s grief have been as meaningful, Uhm Tae-woongs regret as poignant, without Suh Joon-young’s excellent set ups?) So I was thrilled when I heard he was finally starring in a project.
He did not disappoint. Each twin is struggling with his own demon, each has wildly disparate personalities, and Suh Joon-young perfectly played them both. Even when they switch places and play each other, you can tell who’s who. You can even see, through the mannerisms they exaggerate when they take on their brother’s role, how they perceive each other — and the things they’ve missed.
The story made clever use of flashbacks — letting us know in dribbles and drabs what had built the wall between the twins. I loved how each piece of information gave a pulse of clarity to Eun-chang and Shin-woo. And I was thrilled to see Park Hyung-shik playing the teenage twins. I’d just seen him as the young Park Sun-woo in Nine — where he did a fantastic job — so it was an unexpected treat to see him here. (The other actor of note was Park Soon-chun playing their mom — a fascinating character in her own right. My feelings towards her swung wildly as she reacted to her two boys and as we learned more of the whys behind her actions.)
The drama kept the camera work simple — wide shots and tight shots with very little use of split screen trickery. Without tricks to see through, it actually helped build the illusion that there were two distinct characters on the screen. Coupled with the sureness of Suh Joon-young’s two different portrayals (as well as Park Soon-chun’s) I was able to forget that one actor was playing both roles. Taking Eun-chang and Shin-woo as their own person, I cared deeply for each of them and it ripped my heart to watch them struggle with each other.
The End: The ending is a bit ambiguous. But, as this is a short-story rather than a novel (at a little over four hours, it’s more like a long movie than short drama), I liked the ambiguity. That’s how shorts should end — with a sense that things will continue on past the closing credits. I felt we were given enough to carry the story onwards, so I was content. (I’ll share my little theories in a later post.) On the whole, this was definitely worth the wait and I recommend it. If you can find it. (*cough* good *cough* drama *cough*)