An odd collection of short films by acclaimed Korean directors that mostly works as a showcase for singer-actress IU.
Persona, the new four-part collection of short films by acclaimed Korean directors, arrived on Netflix today after being pushed back out of sensitivity to a forest fire on South Korea’s east coast that developed into a national emergency. The anthology’s an odd thing; four twenty-ish-minute shorts that are less about high-concept ideas than they are showcases for singer-actress Lee Ji Eun, more popularly known as IU, who stars in every segment.
Lee Kyoung Mi takes the helm on Love Set, an awkward tennis match between a daughter and her father’s potential new wife; Collector, directed by Yim Pil Sung, is a surreal meditation on love and relationships; Jeon Go Woon’s Kiss Burn is a tale about friendship and revenge; and Walking at Night, by Kim Jong Kwon, concerns dreams and things that might remain unspoken. They’re all distinct, without much of a unifying theme, but they each have surreal, sometimes fourth-wall-breaking elements that work to make the collection as a whole strangely off-kilter.
Persona is very well made, too, which isn’t too much of a surprise given the talent in front of and behind the camera. IU is consistently good if a little leered at here and there, but when the stories leverage her charisma, sexual or otherwise, you understand why. Guest stars pop up now and again — including Park Hae Soo, last seen in Memories of the Alhambra — but this is very much IU’s project, and it works better as a showcase of her talents than it does as a thematically-unified body of work.
Fans of Korean media — and IU particularly — will find lots to like in Persona, even if only four episodes at such a short length leave a fleeting impression. But the premises of these shorts provoke a lot of thought, and will likely stick around for some viewers quite a while. It might not land with the lasting impact that the show’s talent suggests, but it’s an intriguing, offbeat selection of shorts that are worth the small amount of time they take to watch.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.