On paper, a film mixing a terminally-ill main character with “first love, coming-of-age drama” might conjure all manner of images involving you reaching for a box of tissues. However, this proves to not be the case at all for …ing — a solid directorial debut for Lee Eon-hee, writer of Take Care of My Cat. While the film is certainly equipped with some emotional big guns, it chooses not to focus on any one aspect, balancing the serious tones with touches of comedy and light-heartedness. This results in a work that comes across with much more savvy and sincerity than your average tearjerking drama.
…ing paints a myopic world essentially centering around three characters. High school student, Min-ah, lives life day by day in the present tense – a statement of time emphasised by the film’s curious title. She encloses her world in headphones, often spending time in her classroom alone while other students pass by her in a non-interactive blur. She irreverently addresses her mum by her first name “Mi-sook” as an acknowledgement of the mutual relationship they share as friends as well as that of mother and daughter. In fact, Mi-sook is her only real friend, and invests much of her time ensuring that her daughter’s days are as wonderful as possible. Young-jae, armed with a charming smile, arrives as the new neighbour moving in to the apartment below them. He immediately takes an interest in Min-ah and tries to get her attention. While initially she seems to have no interest in him, her mother is encouraging her to give it a go and experience first love.
With this unambitious scope, there is a heavy reliance on the talents of the trio of actors featured here, but it proves to be quite successful thanks to some memorable performances. Min-ah is beautifully played by Im Soo-jeong, fresh out of her starring role in Tale of Two Sisters. For a debut actress, she had a great year in 2003, scooping up no less than 4 “Best New Actress” film awards. Lee Mi-sook (Untold Scandal) as Min-ah’s mother, plays a very convincing role and also one that is refreshingly different. The practical jokes she plays on her daughter, which are possessed with a slight cruelty that would have Ricky Gervais wincing, are incredibly well-executed with motherly warmth. Kim Rae-won (My Little Bride, Mr Socrates) does a good job as the charming neighbour. His tactics at winning Min-ah over are quite juvenile but they come across naturally for him and couple well with the other layers of his character which manifest over the course of the film.
While the story remains fairly simple, this turns out to be part of its charm. There’s no deliberation to contrive the film into either a romance or a melodrama — just to let it simply be a “story”. The mother-daughter relationship proves to be an interesting highlight of the film and balances well with the evolution of the romantic elements. Nothing is over-stated and there is a welcome lack of the usual assortment of clichés that can be found in this genre. …ing would certainly appeal to anyone who appreciates a film that can transcend genres to become its own real and rewarding story.