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Original Title:
Beonjijeompeureul hada

South Korea 2001

Drama, Romance

Kim Dae-seung

Lee Byung-hun
Lee Eun-ju
Yeo Hyeon-soo
Hong Su-hyeon
Jeon Mi-seon
Chang Suk-Won

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Bungee Jumping of their Own

Story: In the year 1983 In-woo (Lee Byung-hun) accidentally meets the girl Tae-hee (Lee Eun-ju). They both instantly fall in love with each other. Despite their shy nature, they both know that they are soulmates and so their relationship has a promising start. However, a tragic accident lets Tae-hee leave this world way too soon...
17 years later, In-woo is married and has a daughter. He is a teacher and has changed a lot since back then. Among his students he soon builds up a good reputation, because of his kindness, sincerity and his wish to support his students in every possible way. But In-woo's life turns upside down, as he gets to know Hyeon-bin (Yeo Hyeon-Soo), who is also a student of his. Hyeon-bin shows incredibly likeness in his characteristics to Tae-hee. Is he the reincarnation of his lost love? Although he tries to withstand them, his feelings for the boy become stronger and rumors about In-woo's sexual orientation start to spread at school...

Review: Homosexuality is still a taboo subject in Korea. Seldom or almost never moviemakers go for this movie-theme. All the more amazing that "Bungee Jumping of their Own", despite of its plot, has been quite successful at the box-office. Those who take a closer look might notice, that the movie is not about the love of two men in particular, but about love which is in some way nearly transcendental and not bound to any social norms, and consequently isn't bound to any gender rules, either.
With his debut, first-time director Kim Dae-seung created a thoughtful, emotional and interesting drama, that stands out from the rest of the genre, because of its unusual plot.

The story of In-woo is told in two parts. First, we learn about his past, more precisely about his first love Tae-hee. While the two main characters definitely are interesting and we are charmed by them right away, it looks like we get a typical Korean rom-com story, including love confessions in pouring rain. But suddenly, without further explanation, there's a cut into the future. Here, the second and main part of the movie starts.
In-woo is grown up and married. Oddly, his wife isn't Tae-hee. With good use of interspersed flashbacks, we soon begin to have an idea of what happened to Tae-hee. However, In-woo slowly starts to see his deceased girlfriend in one of his students.

Absolutely impressive is the expression and growth of the feelings of the two men for another, especially on the part of In-woo. Relativlely late, we notice that his feelings exceed the ones of normal friendship. Nevertheless, we don't question In-woo's sexual orientation, since he is married and has a child. He himself visits a doctor to get a verification, that he is not gay. But it can't be helped, he loves Hyeon-bin, who in fact seems to be a reincarnation of Tae-hee.
Rumors spread at school und we have to experience the hardships gays have to go through in Korea. Despite being bullied and the typical daily mockery, Hyeon-bin also starts to have feelings for In-woo, and even leaves his girlfriend.
It's fascinating that we virtually never question the sexual orientation of the two men and yet the love between them becomes more and more undeniable, without confessions in a typical manner, or being destroyed with overused cliches. One of the biggest strengths of the movie is the unlikely credibility, despite its somewhat supernatural plot.

Lee Byung-hun ("JSR") once and for all proves with his portrayel of teacher In-woo, that he is one of the best actors in Korea. Lee couldn't have played the change he did undergo over the years, from the young to the matured In-woo, much more flawless. Mainly, it's the different emotions he plays perfectly. His growing love for Hyeon-bin he displays absolutely convincingly.
Lee Eun-ju as well has enough screen-time to express all the facets of her character with incredible routine. In addition, there is also Yeo Hyeon-soo, in his first role, who deserves being mentioned. Sometimes his acting is a bit insecure, but this only adds to the credibility if his character. On the whole, he also delivers good work. The supporting cast does good work, too.

Director Kim made every effort and you can see that in form of some very nice pictures. The frequently interspersed flashbacks are done very well. The only thing is, that the movie doesn't feel as a whole. While the love story at the beginning is somewhat quite and subtle, the scenes in the present are more fast-paced and give us a little bit more of a warm feeling. Of course, only until the drama of In-woo and Hyeon-bin kicks in, whereas the mood changes drastically. If there would have been more efforts to arrange everything a little bit more simple and more as a whole, the movie could have become a little masterpiece.

"Bungee Jumping of their Own" is an unusal movie, that deals with the topic of homosexuality in a very subtle way and through the back door. Maybe that's the reason why the movie even became successful in Korea. With use of a supernatural reincarnation-plot, which fortunately isn't all too annoying, we get great emotional cinema, that seems to deal with the subject of love between two men. But actually, as already mentioned, we are told about the love between two individuals that is not bound to the rules of the physical world. In-woo even abandons his familiy, because of his one true love. The end itself is sad and hopeful at the same time. In a subtle way there is even some criticism against the rejection of homosexuals in Korean society.
Those who are looking for an extraordinary and well-done romantic drama, that delivers something special, don't need to look any further. Here it is.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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