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Asako in Ruby Shoes - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2000

Romance, Drama

Lee Jae-yong

Lee Jung-jae
Misato Tachibana
Urara Awata
Kim Min-hie
Gi Ju-bong
Kim Ji-yeong

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Asako in Ruby Shoes

Story: U-in (Lee Jung-jae) is a public servant and bored by his job and his life. He feels lonely and is interested in a redhaired girl he meets at work. However, she isn't interested in him. He turns to the internet and even gets himself a credit card only to watch the webcam girl Asako day after day, who happens to have red hair. Slowly this starts to become an obsession and when it is announced that Asako will take her leave of webcam business he decides to visit her.
Aya (Misato Tachibana) is a young girl, that is preparing for her university entrance exam. But soon she gets tired of that. She is firmly determined to take her own life. But she wants to do this while flying over the date line so that it becomes impossible to determine the time of her death. For this she needs money, though. So she decides not to got to her exam course anymore and secretly go to work. Thanks to her friend Rie (Urara Awata) she gets a part-time job but she doesn't earn enough. So she puts on a wig and makes an appearance as the webcam girl Asako on the internet...

Review: "Asako in Ruby Shoes" is one of those quiet dramas you don't get to see nowadays anymore. Even if the pacing might be a little bit too leisurely at times, the movie simply has heart and is touching eventually. It deals with losers, the feeling of being lost in a world without meaning and the hopeful yearning for maybe something good that is waiting for you out there after all. What's intriguing are the two main characters, who are both not really sane in their very own way and yet are ordinary enough for us to relate to them. U-in constantly passes the border for us to rightfully call him a sicko and Aya is so inflinching in her decision to take her own life that she would seriously need some professional help. Still, it's easy to sympathize with them.

You should probably call "Asako in Ruby Shoes" a romantic drama, but the romance isn't realized in some obvious love story but through an indefinite yearning of the two protagonists for more in life. The actual drama is that life appearantly can't provide them with more and that around every corner new diappointment awaits them. This is also revealed in the inner family circle. U-in avoids the contact with his mother, we never get to know the reason for that, his sister leaves her husband and her daughter, and Aya's parents have completely drifted apart and their family life can't really be called like that. Even apparently happy people like Rie have tried to take their own life once. But time and again all of this is loosened up by some deadpan humor.

Those moments that are supposed to make you laugh are most of the time completely absurd and yet they can actually happen in real life just like that. Every now and then there are also moments that are obviously very forced. The reason for that being that the two stories are supposed to be linked at some joint lines before the ending as well. However, this doesn't really stand as a negative aspect since the atmosphere of the film can make up for those flaws at all times, including the aforementioned meditative pacing. Director Lee Jae-yong also manages to bestow something special upon the different scenes on several occasions so that you get the feeling to be able to dive a little bit deeper into the characters even during the most insignificant moments.

There is always something negative about Lee Jung-jae ("Il Mare", "The Last Witness") that catches my eye, but it surely isn't his acting abilities. He plays the loser with passion and you almost start to feel as lost as he does while his colleagues think that he believes to stand above things. The only thing that's strange, even the more as it never is resolved, is that he doesn't feel anything in one of his fingers.
Misato Tachibana embodies innocence with the helplessness she displays. When she is at a loss and cries into her pillow this is nonetheless very honest and you can instantly sympathize with her. During the film you learn to comprehend her yearning for death, even though she still seems to cling to life after all, why else would she buy a pair of shoes with the first money she earns!

Yes, the wind of longing blows through "Asako in Ruby Shoes" at all times, the longing for death, too. But this longing is never overwhelming or dark but bittersweet, often with a comical disposition as well. Just as life itself presents itself, you could say. This special atmosphere reminds us of movies like "Christmas in August", but the overall tone is a bit more positive. The two stories are told in a surprisingly well-balanced manner and you really get the feeling that the two stories are in fact displaying just one. As can be clearly noticed by the cast as well as the producers this movie is a joint production of Japan and South Korea and yet there is unity in this movie. Thanks to the almost magical atmosphere this romantic drama was short of getting an even better rating. In any case a film worth watching!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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