This is one for the girls, and no mistake. If you don’t end up sobbing like a baby some way through the film, then you’re a better man than I. Err, make that “a better woman”. This is a quintessential weepie romance, with all the necessary attributes.
First up, Su-jin is a little unsure of herself, and slightly dippy. That makes her a perfect romantic heroine, since the audience (ie women) can see themselves in her. Son plays her role nicely, with an understated charm and an undertone of uncertainty. Not ditzy enough to be annoying, but imperfect enough to be likeable: we can identify with Su-jin without feeling threatened.
Then we have Chol-su. A more perfect romantic hero you could not find. Strong, physical, ruggedly handsome, and eager to leap to the defence of his princess, he’s also intelligent, thoughtful, and devoted. Jung Woo-sung, who essayed the stern-jawed slave in Musa: The Warrior, swaps his robe and big stick for a hard hat and carpenters belt, and alternates between swaggering through his mans’ world and clutching his beloved to his bosom. Heady stuff.
Of course, every good weepie has a tragedy, and this has plenty. The lovely young heroine succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease is a motif not often used, and it’s exceedingly tragic. The pitfalls along the path of their budding romance (Su-jin’s father refuses to have a mere tradesman as a son-in-law, Chol-su’s mother rejected him as a child) seem almost light relief by comparison.
It’s clearly difficult to handle such a tragedy with the right balance. Too light a touch, and the movie becomes a throwaway story devoid of emotion (and probably guilty of making light of a serious subject). Too heavy, and we find ourselves drowning in syrup. Overall, the topic is handled fairly well, although it does stray towards the syrupy from time to time.
There’s not much that’s exceptional about this film: script and direction are competent, cinematography is subdued, and the whole technical side takes a back seat to the actors and their rendition of the story. Probably wise, since without the magnetic presence of Jung Woo-sung, our attention might drift to some of the inevitable flaws in what is, really, a two-dimensional story.
Basically, this is Mills And Boon for Asian film fans. Drenched in emotion, with a sympathetic heroine and a larger-than-life hero, this will give tragic romance fans a chance to have a good cry while ogling one of Korea’s finest. Not a bad way to spend an evening, but don’t expect miracles.