A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Bleak character study presents ultimately negative examples of people who don't have real friendships or family support, which could be used as an example of how important both of these are to personal happiness. Some iffy beauty messages from dancing girls being used to attract customers to stores, and when Hae-mi says she had plastic surgery to become beautiful.
Positive Role Models
Jong-su is emotionally mysterious but also likable. He does what he has to when his father runs into trouble, and helps out an old friend. But he commits a terrible crime for revenge. Ben is very mysterious, possibly a sociopath. Hae-mi is a free spirit but financially unstable, also hard to know and mysterious.
Violence & Scariness
Almost none except for one strong sequence that shows a fight and stabbing from middle distance. Blood is visible, repeated stabbing is simulated outside camera frame; there's a dying embrace, and blood smears visible on car, clothing, bare legs. A body is put in a car; the car is set on fire. Dream sequence shows large structure fire. A court hearing mentions a fight and injuring a government official.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple kiss with tongue, take off their tops. A woman's bare breasts are fully visible and shown being caressed. Putting on a condom is simulated outside camera frame; simulated sex shows thrusting, kissing from chest up. Several scenes show simulated masturbation; one scene simulates manual stimulation in dream. Female breasts, male buttocks shown. A couple make out in background.
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"Butt," "whores," and one "f--k." Bonus features show a crew member with the word "f--kin'" on a baseball hat.
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Products & Purchases
Lots of incidental food and beverage products with labels in Korean. One box of Marlboro cigarettes shown.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Main characters, probably of legal age in Korea, drink wine and beer, mostly with meals or socially; excess isn't shown. Several scenes take place in bars. One cocktail party scene. Main characters smoke marijuana once and become very giggly. Main characters and background action frequently show cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Burning is a long, slow character study in Korean with English subtitles that has strong sexual content and a bloody act of violence. There's a scene that simulates sex and shows a woman's bare breasts and a few scenes that show simulated masturbation. No other sensitive parts or explicit acts are shown on-screen. The only direct violence is a stabbing with smears of blood, and burning the body in a car. The main characters frequently smoke cigarettes and smoke marijuana once. Wine and beer frequently appear with meals and socializing, and several scenes take place in bars. There's one instance of "f--k." The three main characters live lonely, isolated lives, so it can be a good opportunity to talk about how things might be different without close ties to friends and family. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
At right around two and a half hours, this quiet, slow-paced character study offers a lot of food for thought while keeping the audience at arm's length. The slow pace, isolated lives, and enigmatic characters make it hard to establish an emotional connection with Burning. It does provoke some thought about why we live the way we do, how that affects us, and what the consequences are of living cut off, if only emotionally, from other people.
The absorbing story, thoughtful direction, and talented acting manage to hold the viewer's interest; we're drawn in despite not being able to feel a real connection to the characters. The ending isn't really an ending, and contributes to a sense of unease, but also encourages thought about where the story might go from there. Strong sexual content, adult themes, and rare but strong violence make it best for oldest teens and up.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.