Some of the most satisfying love stories involve people just that little bit too odd to be able to find romance either easy or lasting and One Fine Spring Day goes about establishing this premise with a bittersweet grace that makes it at times almost breathtakingly beautiful to watch.
Lee Sang-wu, played with sensitivity by pop star/model Yu Ji-tae, is a composed, introspective, somewhat artless young man living with his father, aunt and slightly senile grandmother. Working as a recording engineer in a studio dubbing down dialogue to anime, his story opens with an on-location recording contract for a late-night radio show focusing on the sounds of nature. The show’s producer Han Eun-su is a young, attractive professional living alone after a short, failed marriage. It is obvious not long after their initial meeting that they’re interested in each other, and their relationship is punctuated, or rather inspired by long silent moments spent together recording the sound of the wind in a bamboo forest, water rushing in a creek bed, snow falling on bells in a temple.
And things, as their relationship develops, look promising for the long term. However nothing should ever be taken for granted, especially when it comes to love and before long their easy companionship and the initial flush of romance seems to succumb to more mundane issues and their individual baggage. Eun-su starts a partially conscious campaign to counteract Sang-wu’s tendency to cling, and their relationship comes to a head in the inevitable but no less painful emotional confrontation realistic in its absence of any satisfying reason.
A subtle, slow story paced very much reflecting the film’s dreamier moments, the cinematography is at time gorgeous, especially in the coastal area where Eun-su lives and in the varied locations Sung-wu goes to record his audio. The characterization established is strong and believable, two things crucial in love stories and the relationship unfolds naturally amidst this scenery, along with its problems as intimacy deepens. I was tempted in the end to complain that the reasons for the decline of the relationship weren’t clear enough, until it occurred to me that in reality, they never really are. At peace with that particular concept, I began appreciating the film’s gentle realism the way it was intended, as an emotional journey were the ultimate gain is living, learning and finding the true meaning of happiness with or without the emotional ties that bind.