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Original Title:
Kidari ajeossi

South Korea 2005


Kong Jeong-sik

Ha Ji-won
Yeon Jeong-hun
Shin Yi
Jeong Jun-ha
Bin Hyeon
Eun-hye Park

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Daddy Long Legs

Story: After her parents died, Cha Young-mi (Ha Ji-won) seems to have an unknown admirer. He financially supports her in her studies and is also responsible for a lot of presents. It seems that this unknown person also exerts his influence for getting Young-mi a job as a story-writer at a famous radio station. Although she didn't meet her admirer in all these years, she frequently expresses her gratitude in a diary.
Despite the fact, that she isn't respected by the Radio DJ, Young-mi soon makes new friends, among them her lively collegue Jong-jong (Shin Yi). Producer Lee (Jeong Jun-ha) even provides her with a flat, that isn't used by a collegue, who works abroad at the moment. As time goes by, Young-mi learns, through e-mails and notes, about the secret crush this woman had for a man for several years.
After broadcasting this story and Young-mi's own about her "Daddy Long Legs", that is how she calls her unknown admirer, she finally is successful in her job. Her love life also turns for the better, as she meets librarian Joon-ho (Yeon Jeong-hun). Her feelings for him become stronger, but she also feels some sort of obligation to her "Daddy Long Legs"...

Review: "Daddy Long Legs" is another romantic flick with Ha Ji-won. I don't want to deny, that the actress provided a bonus to my actual review end result of the movie, but director Kong Jeong-sik's debut also works pretty well as a movie itself. Usually, romance is in no way my prefered genre, 'cause in most cases they just offer fluffy entertainment. "Daddy Long Legs" isn't any different, but luckily it stands out, because of a good story, likable characters and some nice moments. So I don't understand some negative criticism I stumbled across. I've seen movies far worse than this one, and if it has to be a romance why not "Daddy Long Legs"?

The movie starts quite originally with a little cartoon, that illustrates the story of Young-mi. Ok, comic-insertions have been already used a lot in comedy-romances, but the style of the cartoon is outstanding and lovable. Besides, it's not used to imbed some slapstick into the movie, but instead the audience gets to know what to expect in the next two hours, which is a good mixture of happiness and melancholy.
After we have been introduced to Young-mi's life we meet a lot of new and interesting persons at her work. Even if we oftentimes have the feeling that the movie is getting nowhere storywise, there's always a lot to discover. Especially the unimportant little things are becoming more meaningful in the course of the movie, so it's recommended to watch it carefully.

One problem, that sometimes isn't that serious, but at other times is really disturbing, are the cheesy scenes. Love e-mails are read out loud, poems are recited and the Radio DJ can't manage to hold back her tears more than once, while broadcasting these. Then, there are of course the stars, snow, and teddy bears etc...
Fortunately, these scenes have at most times a somewhat melancholic undertone, so that they are within the borders of the endurable. The scene with the gigantic teddy bear, which becomes Young-mi's drinking partner, even has something ironic and funny. Tough guys, who can't get along with scenes like this should be warned, because most likely they won't make it until the end of the movie.
Nonetheless, you can see that the movie was made with an eye for details. With solid directing and an alternating happy-melancholic atmosphere, the movie can sustain the viewer's interest until the end - also thanks to the actors.

The actors overall give a good performance. Ha Ji-won is made for the role of the young and a little bit shy woman, who is looking for her admirer. Her partner Yeon Jeong-hun can convince us as the introverted ill-fated young librarian and Shin Yi and Jeong Jun-ha are responsible for the funny moments. Especially Shin Yi is as adorable and quirky as always and together with Ha Ji-won, she charms the viewer.

A fortunate decision has been to put not only a simple love story into the movie, but four. Among them three are directly connected with each other. We have the physically not perceptible relationship between Young-mi and her admirer, the one between Young-mi and Joon-ho, another one between Jong-Jong and Lee, and lastly there is also the relationship between Young-mi's previous flat renter and the man which this woman had a crush on. Jong-Jong's und Lee's relationship is solely for entertaining reasons, as they are unknowingly chatting with each other at work, until, while meeting each other at a blind date, their virtual counterparts turn out to be the same person, twice! In contrast, the other three love storys are cleverly connected with each other and are even apparent at the same time.

The story, based on a novel of Jean Webster, in fact managed to completely catch me off-guard at the end and dissolved the movie in an intelligent way.
Unfortunately, there is also the typical illness-of-the-week story, that strongly reminded me of "A Moment to Remember" and which catapults the movie into the melodramatic. Oddly, at this point the movie doesn't go for some cheap tears, but starts to build up distance between the viewer and the characters. This is not a bad choice, as this adds to the movie's credibility and we have the feeling that someone is trying to convey a message a la "don't regret the beautiful, but short time you had together". Of course, this message is also a little bit worn-out, but at least it's one of the best endings you could come up with in a movie like this. Unless one likes the even more worn-out Happy End..

"Daddy Long Legs" is a well done romance, whereas some drama aspect kicks in later. Nevertheless, the movie always keeps up its happy atmosphere. Thanks to some unanswered questions, the ending is quite good if there wouldn't have been this last cheesy scene...
A melancholic-happy movie, that stands out from the rest of Korean romance flicks, thanks to its nice cast and a good story. Those who can endure some kitsch will be able to have fun with this movie.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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