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Original Title:
Bus, jeong ryu-jang

South Korea 2002

Drama, Romance

Lee Mi-yeon

Kim Tae-woo
Kim Min-jeong
Jeong Dae-hoon
Han Kong-ju
Kim Ye-ryeong
Park Ji-a
Yun Jin-seo

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Bus Stop

aka Bus, l'abri

Story: Jae-sup (Kim Tae-woo) is 32 years old and a teacher. He doesn't get along with adults and so the only person he can talk about his problems is a prostitute. His inner isolation gets even worse when he attends the wedding party of his first love. Somehow, nothing in his life worked the way he wanted.
It seems that this might change with a new acquaintance he made, 17 years old So-hee (Kim Min-jeong), who is financially supported by an older man. So-hee is the new student in Jae-sup's class, and the teacher becomes fascinated by her huge life experience and her seclusion.
The two run into each other at a bus stop. They slowly get to know each other, but despite their mutual fascination, the wounds that life inflicted on them, and their own isolation prevents them from deepening their relationship...

Review: "Bus Stop" is a quiet and profound movie about isolation, the meaning of life and two individuals, who can't put aside their grief, disappointment and disgruntled state they are in. Maybe they can give each other, what they don't get alone and what's needed to finally wake up from their rigor?
In many respects "Bus Stop" can't be compared to the typical Korean love flick. The drama isn't inserted in a misplaced appealing manner at the end of the movie, but is a part of the whole movie. In other words, the movie is more a drama than a screen romance.

Jae-sup is an interesting character and the movie takes its time to introduce him to us.
He avoids any unnecessary contact with his colleagues, and doesn't take part at bar trips, after work. His contact to old friends is also limited. However, he gets along pretty well with his students. He is still an introverted guy, but towards them he now and then can open up a little bit. His dry humor made him even popular with his female students, but nonetheless he doesn't meet with them apart from school. Additionally, we learn that Jae-sup is dabbling in writing, so it seems that there is a lot he wants to get off his chest. But we never learn to know what it exactly is.
The only serious conversations he does have with a prostitute, and it becomes clear that Jae-sup just doesn't know what to expect from life. He is filled with an inner emptiness and no one seems able to set him free from this condition.

On the other hand, we have So-hee. In her past short life there seems to have gone wrong a lot, too. She "prostitutes" herself for an older man, but soon realizes that her life isn't going well this way, either. We don't know something about her parents, but it's obvious that she did run away from home. Maybe it's because of them that she did shrink in her shell and wants to be leaved alone.

Those two persons, seperated from the world, meet each other and begin to realize that they actually do have the same problem. However, are they able to build up mutual trust? After all, that's exactly what they seem to have lost - trust in people. So their approaching to each other is somewhat hesitant. Again and again they do come closer to one another, just to build up some distance, again. This game of insecure checking-out repeats itself several times, and if the viewer isn't ready to dive into the emotional world of this two individuals, he might find it strange that the two do abandon each other frequently. Why isn't one of them making the first move? Because they know, when the other one needs some time for him- or herself to gather the strength to further deepen the relationship. And that's also the movie's strong point. The feelings and thoughts of the protagonists are conveyed without being verbally expressed. There's a lot to be read between the lines, but that's in fact not all too difficult. Nevertheless, there isn't any lack of dialogue like you would expect it from, let's say a Kim Ki-duk movie. In fact, So-hee, in presence of Jae-sup's colleagues, does give a pretty obvious hint what her feelings for Jae-sup are like.

The two main actors deliver a great performance and the movie mostly comes to life because of them. Kim Tae-woo plays the lonely teacher, who as simple as it is, is searching for the sense of life in his own way, as excellent as Kim Min-jeong plays the young student, who had to suffer way too much pain in her short life. No doubt, Kim Min-jeong looks just great, but her look nearly isn't used in any way, which adds to the movie's credibility even more.

With quite and sometimes sterile pictures director Lee Mi-yeon portrays the inner isolation of the two protagonists and reflects it to the outside. At the same time, Lee manages with her debut "Bus Stop", to create an atmosphere, which doesn't feel too distant. Especially the scenes at the bus stop give us a warm feeling, when we see that Jae-sup and So-hee are starting to accept each other. It's also interesting that the movie just plays at night, if I'm not mistaken. This stresses the loneliness of the two individuals as good as the frequent rain reflects the deep sorrow of the two.

"Bus Stop" is a nice drama about two interesting characters, who are slowly approaching each other, and who let the audience hope, that they might manage to flee their empty existence together. Despite of all the drama, it's the subtle love relationship that makes the movie work that well.
A good, thoughtful movie, that never gets boring and even demands from the audience to interpret and analyze its main characters. Recommendable!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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