Review: Last Present (2001)

Directed by:
Cast: , ,

Not available in Australia on DVD (to our knowledge)

This is a movie about two people who never find the right words to say to each other. Jeong-yeon, devoted though she is, always seems to be scolding her husband, while he in return pretends not to care.

It takes a while to get going. For this grumpy-faced reviewer, the scenes in the babies wear shop that Jeong-yeon owns were about as appealing as baby food that’s already been through the baby. My heart, in short, was not warmed. And there’s a tad too much time spent showing that the couple can’t stop snapping at each other, where I would have liked to imagine that there was a time when they seemed to like each other, however long ago.

But once you get through this and into the meat of the story, the film picks up. Although the couple still don’t want to play like nice sob-story characters, the back story adds depth to their relationship, and I for one was finally convinced that they loved each other but didn’t know how to show it. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that she’s dying, he finds out, and neither one wants the other to know.

This lifts the film above the trite melodramatic treatment that a story like this would usually receive. We are so inured to seeing pale languid heroines in the arms of sobbing heroes that this film looks odd, but I thought it became more moving because of its ordinariness. These people are acting just like we would, although they’re a lot more attractive (of course). And so it’s easier to feel their pain and confusion.

That’s not to say there’s not the occasional trapping of the melodrama, though. This film shares with far too many Korean films a fondness for swelling string soundtracks, and it really overloads my schmaltz-meter. I honestly wish that someone would try a tragedy scored entirely to the kazoo, for example. Or perhaps the Brazilian nose flute. Even the banjo. Imagine a classic tragic scene conducted to the foot-stompin’ rhythm of a jug band. Would change the concept of tragedy for all time.

Overall, a reasonable film with a moving ending but way too many violins.

6 old school photos out of 10.
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