Fantasia Review: 'Vertigo' Takes Romantic Drama to New Heights

Directed by Jeon Gye-soo

Starring Chun Woo-hee, Yoo Teo, Jeong Jae-kwang

BY Josiah HughesPublished Aug 31, 2020

At once atmospheric and melodramatic, Vertigo is a film that makes the most of its dizzying tone. Directed by Jeon Gye-soo, the South Korean film stars Chun Woo-hee as young urban professional Seo-young, whose office life atop a skyscraper and lonely home existence are as topsy-turvy as the woozy spells she faces as a result to her tinnitus and vertigo.

Seo-young's non-medical problems include constant harassment from her overbearing mother and romantic turmoil with her co-worker (Teo Yoo), who ceaselessly leads her on without sealing the deal. More importantly, her day-to-day life is being monitored and occasionally interrupted by a nosy window cleaner (Jeong Jae-kwang), who has developed a crush while dangling from the side of the building.

As Vertigo unfolds, the film presents myriad would-be problems, from an overuse of its themes (a café they characters frequent is called Vertigo, which is also one of Seo-young's main maladies) to extreme melodrama in the plot. Still, the actors are experts with the source material, finessing the melodrama into something incredibly satisfying. Further, Jeon Gye-soo manages to build a rich tapestry through A-level cinematography and cinematic swells.

In lesser hands, Vertigo would've been a schmaltzy disaster, but even as it reaches its high-flung and acrobatic conclusion, it still feels, well, grounded.

Fantasia International Film Festival is taking place online from August 20 to September 2.

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