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Original Title:

South Korea 2002

Drama, Romance, Mystery

Park Young-hoon

Lee Byung-hun
Lee Mi-yeon
Lee Eol
Park Seon-yeong
Lee Seung-Shin
Kim Ji-eun

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aka The Poisoning

Story: Ho-jin (Lee Eol) lives happily with his wife Eun-su (Lee Mi-yeon) in a small house. The two are as much in love with each other than they were at the first day they met. They still even write love letters to each other. While Eun-su works for a company that is responsible for stage settings, Ho-jin is working at home as an artist. Ho-jin's brother Dae-jin (Lee Byung-hun) lives at the happily married couple's home and dodges any attempts of his friends and family who try to talk him into finally finding a girlfriend. He likes it the way things are at the moment and finds joy in his profession as a race driver. He even eludes the obvious advancements of his female colleague Ye-jin (Park Seon-yeong) at him.
However, joy doesn't last for too long, and Dae-jin has a car accident, one day. At the same time Ho-jin is also involved in a traffic accident. When Dae-jin finally awakens, after a long time in a coma, he is completely changed. Furthermore, Eun-su has almost lost her will to live, now that she has lost her husband. But Dae-jin's strange behavior has a reason. He believes to be Ho-jin! At first the doctors explain his behavior as being a result of the traumatic experience of his accident, but as time goes by Dae-jin actually starts to show talent in things, only Ho-jin was capable to do. Moreover, he knows a lot about small details concerning Eun-su, which only Ho-jin was supposed to know. Has Ho-jin's soul really wandered into Dae-jin's body?

Review: There are movies that just silently vanished into some corner of a DVD store without anyone noticing them, until finally someone comes across them by accident and realizes that this film deserves much more attention by viewers than it did. "Addiction" is a good example. It starts off as a nice little romantic movie, until the story eventually dives into more fantastic realms, providing us with some nice twists. In the end it even asks some profound questions the kind we wouldn't expect of a romantic flick, normally. Thus, in some way, "Addiction" proves to be an unique movie with a good sense for the right atmosphere. You shouldn't expect a real masterpiece, but somehow the movie just manages to play itself right into the heart of the viewer without much effort. In fact, the film had the potential to be even more, but as it is, the movie still delivers more than we would have expected. Which is why, after the credits screen, the movie will leave you with a smile and a cozy feeling in your stomach.

The first half hour of the movie we are introduced to the fulfilled life of a married couple. The atmosphere stands out with a very nice and joyful mood. Humor also doesn't come too short, and therefore this segment of the movie is just fun to watch. However, there is one golden rule when it comes to a drama: after a cheerful opening there has to happen something really awful. Will somebody be struck by an illness, or is there even death waiting for one of the protagonists?
We watch Dae-jin participating in a professional car race, while Ho-jin catches a taxi and asks the driver to step on it, because he is late and at least wants to see the end of his brother's race. During the race there are many fast cuts between Dae-jin's adrenaline-loaden car race and Ho-jin's ride through town. The editing creates a great tension and lets us already conjecture the catastrophe waithing ahead. But who will be the victim of the tragic accident? Dae-jin or maybe his brother? Well, both... From this point onward we merely expect your typical drama unfolding: Dae-jin survives and has to comfort widow Eun-su; slowly feelings of love develop, but it is a relationship that is not meant to be. But surprise: it's nothing like that! In fact the film delivers something different than what we have expected.

"Addicted" gets a touch of mystery, as apparently the soul of Eun-su's husband wandered into the body of Dae-jin. This supernatural aspect doesn't feel as contrived as it may sound, especially as we already learned to love stories like this since "Ditto" or "Il Mare". Thus, this little drift into the fantastic fits seamlessly into the rest of the film. Nonetheless, it's a bit odd that even the physicians don't rule out the possibility of a switching or wandering of souls. Isn't there supposed to be something like a scientific and logical approach to things?
Still, the question remains: Is this really the wandering of a soul we witness here, or is Dae-jin maybe just thinking to be Ho-jin. There are many hints, that he has in fact become Ho-jin, as Dae-jin suddenly proves to be exceptionally talented as a craftsman or cook. Moreover, he tells Eun-su many secrets, that were kept between her and her husband only. Even when Dae-jin awakens out of his coma, the first thing he does is looking for a mirror, which shows us, that he has to assure himself of his own identity.
Additionally, "Addicted" isn't as easy in its theme or plot than we might think at first, as there is a very interesting twist, which gives the film a whole new meaning. It's also very unusual, but still very credible, how Eun-su reacts upon the big revelation. This leads to the fact, that the movie also provides some material to reflect about, making it by no means your standard romantic flick.

The film delivers a good portion of drama without pushing too hard, and manages to score especially well on an emotional level, thanks to the great actors. Lee Eol ("Holiday", "Bloody Tie") only gets some time on screen at the beginning of the movie, but he still succeeds in giving a nice portrayal of the loveable husband with a big heart. Lee Mi-yeon ("Indian Summer", "Typhoon") plays the wife and lets us see her character's bright side as well as her broken heart after her husband's accident. Nevertheless, the movie's true star is without a doubt Lee Byung-hun ("A Bittersweet Life", "Bungee Jumping of Their Own"), who once again delivers a great performance. His character is multi-layered and we never really know what to think of him. Is he really Ho-jin or does he suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder? Lee Byung-hun convinces especially well because of his more reserved nature, and he delivers some emotional highlights during his scenes with Lee Mi-yeon. Without the great cast the film most likely would have been just half as good.

Director Park Young-hoon, who later on should get another positive review written by me with his "Innocent Steps", proves that he has a keen sense of how to tell his story. And he also doesn't forget to scatter some well apparent hints throughout his movie that might prepare the viewer for the big twist, or maybe just completely mislead him. The pacing maybe dragging a bit during the middle and towards the end, but this romantic movie is nonetheless very entertaining, and is even the more appealing because of its bittersweet atmosphere. The ending is really well done, too, and even leaves us with something to think about.
"Addicted" is one of those movies you expect only little of, and which can eventually surprise you in a pleasent way. If you are looking for a love story with that special something, then this is your address. A nice film, that offers more than your standard drama, and is heartwarming and tragic at the same time. Very recommendable!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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