“Yourself and Yours” now feels like an unsteady bridge between Hong’s pre- and post-2016 work since it’s a characteristically disjointed series of vignettes about a drunken artist (Joohyuck Kim) who’s obsessively worried about his partner (Yooyoung Lee) and what may or may not be her ulterior motives. Watching “Yourself and Yours” in 2020, after five of Hong’s six succeeding films have been released in America, is a bit like revisiting the scene of a crime years after it’s been thoroughly picked over: there’s some evocative stuff here, but even Hong’s worst recent films are more gratifying than this.
In “Yourself and Yours,” frustrated painter Youngsoo (Kim) fixates on his withdrawn girlfriend Minjung (Lee) and her alcoholism. Kind of; sort of. Youngsoo doesn’t actually know if Minjung is drinking heavily behind his back, though a couple of his friends have said as much to him anyway. Some of them, including Jaeyoung Park (Haehyo Kwon), try to confront Minjung, but she always eludes her accusers, possibly because the woman that Youngsoo and his friends confront says that she’s Minjung’s twin sister. I mean, who knows, maybe Minjung really does have a twin sister? That’s just the first of several fruitless questions and pronouncements that Youngsoo hashes out over drinks with his gossipy buddies, and then while stalking Minjung outside her apartment, followed by some more drinking at nearby cafes, and then some more daydreaming about what Minjung’s sister (or maybe it’s Minjung?) does when she’s not with him.
Hong lays into Youngsoo’s neuroses with the same wry sense of humor and barbed romanticism that has made him a critical darling. But several scenes in “Yourself and Yours” only seem to exist to show us the various fruitless convolutions of Youngsoo’s paranoiac fantasies, all of which involve Minjung (or a Minjung-like woman) meeting and rejecting her insistent, but superficially shy would-be suitors’ attempts at “[understanding] her completely.” So some scenes back up Youngsoo’s theory that “It’s all fake! All shitting and eating! True love! Only true love is worth anything. The rest is all formality, all crap!” Others scenes confirm Hong’s fascination with his characters’ stream-of-conscious emotional process: “Everything in life is necessary! Nothing is useless.” But while several of Hong’s supporting characters’ points-of-view are considered, most of them are obviously extensions of Hong’s bruised ego, like the young barflies who speculate that Minjung isn’t “pitiful” since she “sees a new man every night,” while another says “It’s Youngsoo who’s pitiful. Our great Youngsoo, reduced to this.” August Strindberg (or maybe Albert Brooks), this guy ain’t.