2 min read
Dear Jinri movie review – K-pop star Sulli interviewed shortly before her suicide for heartbreaking documentary

 Dear Jinri, directed by acclaimed documentarian Jung Yoon-suk (Non-Fiction Diary), is constructed around the final interview given by Korean celebrity Choi Jinri, better known by her stage name, Sulli.

As the film states in its opening credits, this lengthy sit-down conversation was recorded “shortly before her passing” – the only reference made to Sulli’s untimely death by suicide on October 14, 2019. 

Born in Busan, South Korea, where the film had its world premiere last week, Sulli rose to fame as a child actress before being selected as a member of the five-piece K-pop girl band f(x).

 Sulli continued to pursue a film career, landing prominent roles in The Pirates and Fashion King, both released in 2014. Citing mental and physical exhaustion, she took a hiatus from f(x) around this time and would never rejoin the band.

Sulli became the target of sustained cyberbullying, receiving criticism for her relationship with Dynamic Duo rapper Choiza, her appearance and wardrobe choices .

Despite all of this, she became an outspoken feminist advocate on social media, showing her support for Comfort Women Day – observed in remembrance of the women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during the second world war – the no-bra movement and other notable causes championing women’s rights in Korea.

Tragically, Sulli’s battle against depression came to a horrifying end when she hanged herself in her home.<br>Frustratingly, Jung’s documentary covers none of this information, assuming that the audience already has a complete understanding of who Sulli was, the controversies and scandals in which she became embroiled, as well as the unspeakable pressures of the Korean music industry and its fan base that ultimately consumed her.

While the film does include snippets of footage from television appearances, social media vlogs, and a short film she was in the process of shooting, Jung tiptoes cautiously around the real story. 

 He also employs elements from L. Frank Baum’s fantasy novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as a framing device – supposedly prompted by Sulli’s 2019 single “Dorothy” – to limited effect.

Instead, what Dear Jinri delivers is a snapshot of a young starlet clearly uncomfortable in her own skin. Turned out in an immaculate white button-down shirt and blue jeans, she struggles to answer the director’s questions about beauty, celebrity and herself.

During the frequent, sustained pauses we watch Sulli struggle desperately for something substantive to say. Soon, it becomes painfully clear that she is a victim of her own success, an object of beauty thrust into the limelight by an industry that subsequently failed to adequately protect her from the attention it engendered.

The results are admittedly heartbreaking, but perhaps not in the way the filmmaker intended.