Don’t say the title didn’t warn you. Provided you are willing to give yourself over to this shamelessly manipulative fluff, you’re in for a very emotional experience indeed. But, surprisingly, even if you’re too cynical to take it seriously (and for that you wouldn’t need to be very cynical at all, to be honest) there’s still much to love about Sad Movie.
I’ve heard once or twice from individuals better travelled than I that Koreans are the best looking people in the world. Sad Movie offers compelling evidence to support the theory: even deaf-mute burn victim Su-eun (Shin Min-a) wears her supposedly disfiguring scar like a beauty mark. She is a costume performer at an amusement park, and falls in love with a street artist but is unable to talk to him or show him her face. Her sister Su-jeong (Lim Su-jeong), a TV sign language translator, lives in constant anticipation of her brash fire-fighter boyfriend’s proposal, and also constant disappointment. An unemployed loser (Cha Tae-hyun) trying to win back his checkout-chick girlfriend strikes upon an inventive business opportunity: delivering “Dear John/Jane” messages for people without the stomach to break off relationships themselves. A troubled young son tries to come to terms with his terminally ill mother’s imminent death. And so on, and so forth…
The movie is a less ambitious version of the likes of Short Cuts and Magnolia: it’s one of those constantly moving ensemble pieces scored with aggressive, industrious music where the stories are separate yet the characters inter-related. Movies like this unfold almost entirely in a kind of visual symphony, changing their pacing deftly between periods of largo and presto: it’s a loose kind of structure which lends itself beautifully to stories about people’s lives rapidly disintegrating. It takes a lot of imagination and film making talent to successfully realise this kind of film, as you have to break all the usual structural rules without losing your audience. Refer to that awful Love Actually for an unsuccessful attempt.
Sad Movie is a modestly successful addition to this curious little subgenre, and I liked it a great deal even though its mercilessly maudlin ending (or endings) raised chuckles in me more than tears. It is, for the most part, extremely charming and frequently funny, and it wears Magnolia‘s influence particularly boldly in its visual style, which is also no bad thing at all. But will it make you cry? Depends how much of a pushover you are, I guess.