Gina Kim's competent romantic melodrama "Never Forever" stars new indie-queen Vera Farmiga as Sophie, a New York waif married to Andrew, a well-to-do Korean-American businessman (David McInnis). Their mixed-race marriage doesn't particularly please Andrew's devoutly Christian family, especially since the unhappy couple can't conceive a child. Driven by social pressures and a desire to make her husband happy, Sophie sets out to have a baby - by sleeping with another Korean man.
"Never Forever" has all the ingredients of a solid Lifetime movie. Sophie follows a Korean stranger named Jihah (Jung-Woo Ha) from a fertility clinic and offers to pay him for sex. He agrees without needing too much convincing. But slowly, their sexual transactions grow more intimate and before you know it, Sophie is besieged by a passionate affair with another man.
What makes the film better than cable TV is Kim and cinematographer Matt Clark's intimate, naturalistic camera, which is most effective in the pivotal scene in which the intercourse turns from cold and practical to hot and steamy. The scene is shot up close and evocatively, and Farmiga - with "such fucking blue eyes," as Jihah says - admirably plays the pent-up woman who finally gives in to passion.
The film's weakest link is the husband played by McInnis, a handsome actor who has neither enough to work with in the script or the acting chops to handle the most difficult scenes. Apparently, Andrew is suicidal, but it's never clear on the man's face or in his actions why and how he has devolved to such a hopeless state. And when the second-act revelations pile on, the film reaches a violent crescendo that needs a stronger performance to carry it.
The film's lyrical soundtrack by Michael Nyman calls to mind an earlier work by the composer, Jane Campion's "The Piano," obviously an influence on "Never Forever." While evoking similar lyrical rhythms, dramatic flourishes and feminist themes, the choice of Nyman further helps to tip the film over the edge, from intimate character study to broad overreaching melodrama.
Not that this is a terribly bad thing. "Never Forever" should satisfy fans of the feminist melodrama - especially with its schlocky coda. And despite its flaws, it should be praised for exploring the rarely observed attraction between an American woman and an Asian man. While Kim doesn't fully address the racial issues that might come up in such a relationship, the set-up is at least something we haven't seen much before. But Kim should be able to do better, and next time, she probably will.
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