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Original Title:
Ane-eui aein-eul mannada

South Korea 2007

Drama, Comedy

Kim Tai-sik

Park Kwang-jung
Jeong Bo-seok
Jo Eun-ji
Kim Sung-mi
Oh Dal-su
Yoo Yun-soo
Jin Mi-sun

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Driving with my Wife's Lover

Story: Tae-han (Park Kwang-jung) is a guy of middle age and works as a seal engraver. He is a quite and reserved fellow, who always keeps his head. However, one day he finds out that his wife Eun-soo (Kim Sung-mi) cheats on him. At first Tae-han isn't sure how to cope with this situtation, but he soon decides to go to Naksan and meet Joong-sik (Jeong Bo-seok), his wife's secret lover, in order to confront him. When he arrives in Naksan he realizes that he hasn't got the courage to do so. Instead, he takes a cab and wants to get home all the way back to Seoul. His driver is no one else but Joong-sik, as he works as a taxi driver, and Tae-han hopes to get to know Joong-sik better on their ride.
It becomes pretty apparent that Tae-han and Joong-sik couldn't be any more different. Joong-sik is talking all the time and tells his passenger, that he loves all women. Therefore, it's no surprise that he has a girlfriend in nearly any town.
Eventually, after several small adventures on the taxi ride, Tae-han arrives back at home, but soon ends up in the arms of So-ok (Jo Eun-ji), who happens to be Joong-sik's girlfriend, and who uffers from the same lovesickness as Tae-han...

Review: There are small movies you most likely won't hear of until you suddenly stumble upon them, expecting not much, but then they suddenly and somehow manage to surprise and move you. "Driving with my Wife's Lover" is such a movie. It is a very special film, and thus not everyone's cup of tea, yet it impresses with it's uncompromisingly different way of style, which still never really becomes alienating. Granted, in some respects this film may still be art house cinema, but it's not as pretentious as many other works. Instead it proves to be entertaining and at times even touching. The film presents itself as a mixture of black comedy, romantic drama and road movie. Yet, the movie's most obvious flaw is the story, which just doesn't deliver enough material to fill 90 minutes of film. The main plot itself may be quite interesting, but if the great actors wouldn't have stressed the work's focus on the characters, "Driving with my Wife's Lover" maybe could have become a very tedious movie.

The first half of the film we accompany Tae-han and Joong-sik on their taxi ride. The story unfolds with very appealing and off-beat dynamic. We get to know the two main characters and watch the strange relationship evolving between them. They surely don't build up any friendship, but through their diverse little adventures, they become a bit more familiar with each other. This familiarity becomes even more apparent during their small conversation towards the end.
However, first of all there are a few funny scenes we get to see. The film's humor is somewhat odd and stands out with some pretty surreal scenes. For example, there is one scene in which the taxi breaks down, and suddenly soon after a whole bunch of melons come rolling down the street. It's never answered, where these melons came from, but the picture of several melons splattered all over the street is one you don't get to see ever day, and it can really burn itself into your memory. Another scene that is pretty unusual is when Tae-han and Joong-sik take a bath in a nearby lake, whereas Tae-han does some odd excercise, stark-naked of course.

Park Kwang-jung, who portrays shy Tae-han, who wishes for nothing more than to have his revenge, but is too soft-hearted to execute it, delivers a fantastic performance. Jeong Bo-seok as the chatty taxi driver, who has the opinion that there is no adultery in this world, but only love, can provide a credible performance as well. The chemistry between the two characters is just fine, especially since the chemistry actually isn't that well, if you get my point. Therefore, the taxi ride proves to be an exciting adventure, even though it actually isn't one in the original sense, so that we keenly await where the story might be heading.
Unfortunately, this part of the movie ends after approximately the first half of the running time, and "Driving with my Wife's Lover" becomes a more serious in tone after this. In fact, we never really know how things might evolve or what might be coming next, and since the director also inserts some scenes that only originate from the wishful thinking of the main protagonist, you can never be really sure that what you see on screen is actually reality.
Also interesting is that the movie has its own distinctive pacing. Slow for most part, but only as far as it seems appropriate for the film. The camera work is very kinetic and sometimes in hand camera style, although this never really becomes annoying.

Since the film starts to get more dramatic towards the end, there are also some few touching moments. Tae-han gets drunk in a local at which So-ok works, who just happens to be the long-term girlfriend of the taxi driver. But is this really merely a coincidence? That's very unlikely, but the conversation that follows and several bottles of booze later, they realize that they are plagued by the same feelings of loneliness, disappointment and anger. When suddenly there is a power outage and the two fall into each others arms, they finally experience the warmth they were longing for for so long. Yes, in a sense this is love, and this even though we never have any illusions that they actually might become a couple in the future. Or maybe they will?
The good emotional impact of those scenes is mainly Jo Eun-ji's ("My Scary Girl") achievement. She has an incredibly bright screen presence, and is simply radiating charisma, yet not in your standard quirky way. She is without a doubt the movie's highlight, and also delivers the most striking performance of the actors.

However, there is one downside. And that is the ending. It hits you way too simple and is even disappointing in a way. On the other side you have to ask yourself how exactly a movie like this is supposed to end, so that it stands as being appealing. Nonetheless, it remains somewhat unnecessary and annoying that the last scene is shot in black and white. There doesn't seem to be any special reason for this. Furthermore, it is pretty apparent that "Driving with my Wife's Lover" is more of a black comedy at the start, but becomes more and more serious and dramatic towards the end. It doesn't really feel like a breach of style as things still fit into one another, yet, it would have been nice to see some more humoristic scenes towards the end.
The film's claim to be also a piece of art can't be overlooked. Director Kim Tai-sik doesn't stick to certain filming rules, but works in several peculiarities into his movie, which make it so worthwhile and special. Moreover, the film also comes along with some small scenes that reveal quite some skin at times. Although there is only one true bed scene to be found.
"Driving with my Wife's Lover" is a small film, and even though it has its weaknesses, e.g. the story that is a bit overstretched, it still succeeds in winning a place in the viewer's heart, which is mainly the effort of the likeable characters. In the end, my rating might be a bit lenient, but in my opinion the director's courage to try to do something more unusual, deserves a reward. As a tragical comedy of its own unique kind, this movie deserves a recommendation, anyway.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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