‘The Cat Funeral’: Hong Kong Review

A pet’s demise offers a second chance to a young Korean couple still in love

Despite the spooky aura conjured up by its catchy title, The Cat Funeral (Goyangi jangryesik) is not a horror film, but an indie adaptation of a webtoon by the artist Hong Sung-hyuk. This South Korean romance is not one of the most successful transpositions from online comics to film, and only its rather melancholy finale gives it a modicum of depth. Written and directed by Lee Jong-hoon, the story of an aspiring musician and a self-centered girl cartoonist becomes a romantic drama so conventional that even the cat is uninteresting. Its local appeal will depend largely on the box-office power of the 20-something leads, who are cast to play off each other rather than for harmony.

Dong-hoon, who strums guitar and tunefully sings his own sad love songs, is sensitively played by Kangin, a musician in the K-pop group Super Junior. Given that his previous screen credits include Attack on the Pin-Up Boys and Hello, Schoolgirl, the current film probably offers a meatier role to a young actor good at projecting male sensitivity and inwardness.

The Bottom Line

‘Pet Sematary’ it’s not

Demanding attention as the kooky, comically insensitive artist Jae-hee is young TV actress Park Se-young. An urban sophisticate, she first meets Dong-hoon at a wedding where she brushes off his inept passes. But soon she repents and looks for him. Only gradually in the course of the film is it revealed that he comes from a modest family on an island and works in a supermarket for a living while he struggles to get his first music album together.

It’s Jae-hee who proposes they shack up together, despite the boy’s touching old-school concern that, should they ever split up, it “might ruin you for marriage.” Jae-hee proves domineering and unreasonable as a flat-mate, demanding he not smoke in the house and insisting he pee sitting down. After a war of attrition, he agrees to adopting a stray kitten, a little gray tiger whose acting role doesn’t go beyond playing with a bell on a string. When Jae-hee and Dong-hoon are torn apart by small misunderstandings and jealousy issues, he gets the cat. 

Time passes, the cat dies. The two ex-lovers meet to bury it together. Both are considerably better-looking than in the early scenes, and Jae-hee has become more restrained, less manipulative and obnoxious, though she still has a secret agenda. Their relationship is almost formal as they take trains and ferries to Dong-hoon’s native island to hold the funeral. Here the story reaches a literal dead end, though unexpected delays keep the tedious pair on the island overnight.

The film is well-edited, flitting back and forth in time and memory over the couple’s problems.

Production company: Indiestory Inc.
Cast: Kangin, Park Se-young, Jung Gyu-woon, Hong Wan-pyo, Kim Byeong-chon
Director: Lee Jong-hoon
Screenwriter:  Lee Jong-hoon based on the webtoon by Hong Sung-hyuk
Producer: Jeon Youn-chang
Executive producers:Bryan Kim, Goh Young-jae, Choi Jeong-woo
Director of photography: Kim Mu-you
Production designer: Jeong Hye-won
Costume designer: Jeong Eui-sun
Editor: SonYeon-ji
Music: Yiruma
Sales Agent:  Indiestory Inc.

No rating, 107 minutes