Right Now, Wrong Then

Quite by accident, a film director arrives in town a day early. With time to kill before his lecture, he stops by a restored palace and meets a fledgling artist. She’s never seen any of his films, but knows he’s famous. They talk, they go to her workshop to look at her paintings, and they have sushi and soju. More conversation follows, along with more drinks, and then an awkward get-together with friends where all sorts of secrets are revealed. All the while, they may or may not be falling for each other. Then, quite unexpectedly, we begin again, but now things appear somewhat different. An uncanny romantic comedy, RIGHT NOW, WRONG THEN is a deliciously intricate masterwork from filmmaker Hong Sangsoo.

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  • ★★★★½ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd

    82/100

    A.V. Club review. The Hong diptych I've been waiting for. Think of it as Mulholland Dr. in reverse: grim reality first, wish-fulfillment fantasy second. What makes it even richer is that it's not entirely clear whose fantasy version of the encounter we're seeing—his, it would seem for most of the second half, but the ending strongly suggests that it could be hers, which makes just as much sense in retrospect. Either way, or both ways, this ranks among Hong's most purely entertaining films, with perhaps the best chemistry ever between his male and female leads (both of whom, Hong admitted in a recent interview, were extremely drunk during the twin bar scenes). It's also touchingly optimistic, positing—in an amusingly absurdist way, thankfully; there's not a hint of moralism—that disarming honesty and candor will always succeed where deceitful manipulation fails. And then it even redefines the notion of "success" in this context (which is why it feels to me like her fantasy in the end, even if the whole stripping thing seems unlikely to have emerged from her unconscious). Can't wait to see this again at TIFF and zero in on the way that minor disparities lead to major shifts.

  • ★★★★½ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd

    "she forgives you because you're an artist."

    Hong Sang-soo's best since The Day He Arrives. caustically clarifies his obsession with the dark power of honesty. i pretty much loved this movie.

  • ★★★★½ review by Filipe Furtado on Letterboxd

    “I’m dazzled by your beauty”.

    Gestures of power come and go and we are just let by the traces of them, the memories and the movies.

  • ★★★½ review by Enfant du Siècle on Letterboxd

    During a short stay in Suwon, a film director meets a young painter and they spend the day together. A peaceful temple, a small café, the artist's workshop, a sushi restaurant, and a small gathering of friends are the settings in which the protagonists unfold. The same story is told twice with subtle variations, Right Now, Wrong Then is a film exercise in which Hong Sang-soo offers two different perspectives on the same episode and invites the audience to observe carefully the interaction between his characters. The film is divided into two parts; in both the protagonists meet each other by chance, visit the same places and have similar conversations. The difference lies in their behaviour and attitude. In the first part, everything feels a little forced, the protagonists never seem entirely comfortable and it is difficult for the viewer to discern what is authentic; in the second part, everything flows naturally, one perceives sincerity in the characters, they manage to overcome banality and to share a little bit of themselves.

    Like any Hong Sang-soo film, there are extensive conversations while soju is flowing, some reflections on cinema, and an intimacy that makes it very personal. There are good performances by Jung Jae-young and the always charming Kim Min-hee, a touch of humour and a beautiful ending. Right Now, Wrong Then is a story about the way we build our reality and the second chances, those "what if...", that only cinema can provide.

  • ★★★★ review by Sean Gilman on Letterboxd

    Unbelievably, despite having just finished watching it a mere 90 minutes before we began recording this episode of The George Sanders Show, both of us neglected to talk about Hong Sangsoo’s latest release, one of our most-anticipated films of the festival. The Hong film is a perennial highlight of every VIFF (I’ve seen Like You Know it All, Oki’s Movie, Hahaha, In Another Country, Our Sunhi and Hill of Freedom here over the years) and Right Now, Wrong Then is no disappointment. It’s a very good film, while lacking the formal experimentation that distinguishes his best work (Oki’s Movie, The Day He Arrives) or the sheer giddy pleasure of his funniest movies (Hill of Freedom, In Another Country), it has a precision and focus that assures that, despite a certain conventionality, it will become one of his more popular features. Split evenly in two halves, it follows a film director, in town for a festival showing and Q & A, as he wanders about a tourist site where he meets a young woman. They talk, drink soju, make awkward approaches at romance and ultimately split when the director is proven to be a dishonest, womanizing lout. Then the film resets, complete with a new title card (the first half is “Right Then, Wrong Now”, the second “Right Now, Wrong Then”) and we replay the same day but with significant differences. The director in this version is honest and open (perhaps to a fault, as when a drunken overheating compels him to strip naked in front of his companions). Hong significantly varies his camera setups in the second section, creating more balanced compositions where in the first half the setups tended to privilege the director’s perspective (including a Hong rarity: an actual POV shot). It’s a mature film, relaxed and confident with a simple truth to tell. But underlying it all is a palpable loneliness. It’s played as sadness, as tragedy in the first half, where the director’s faults lead to failure and angry isolation, and as wistful melancholy in the second, where people can find happiness in connecting with an other, with the full knowledge that any such connection is necessarily temporary. It’s a quiet and sweet film, a warm room on a cold night, and vice versa.

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