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Original Title:
Peeo leobeu

South Korea 2009

Romance, Drama

Shin Yeon-Shik

Ahn Sung-ki
Lee Ha-na
Yoon Seung-joon
Lee Hyeon-ho
Kim Jeong-seok
Kim In-soo
Kil Chang-gyu
Heo Yeon-jeong
Yu In-na

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Fair Love

Story: Hyung-man (Ahn Sung-ki) is in his early fifties and repairing cameras in his small shop. One day a good friend of him is about to die and even though he was fooled out of his money by him, Hyung-man promises to look after his daughter Nam-eun (Lee Ha-na). Nam-eun lives only a block away from his store and so Hyung-man visits her every now and then. However, the 25-year old girl apparently seems to have some feelings for the considerably older man for quite a while already and gives Hyung-man more than enough hints. Yet, the camera specialist could do very well without a woman in his life until now and he initially ignores the approaches of the girl. He also doesn't know how he could explain to others a relationship with a girl half his age. Eventually, he realizes that it is only fear that hinders him to start seeing Nam-eun and he overcomes it. Despite the age difference the two soon have to struggle with the same problems as any other couple and the future of the two seems to remain uncertain.

Review: Love can be found in any variation and composition of two people. That's what the title is supposed to hint at, which is refering to the english saying "All is fair in love and war". So why shouldn't a young girl have an interest in a man who is pretty much twice her age? Naturally, this doesn't correspond to social conventions and so such a relationship is the aim of a lot of criticism and disapproval from everyone. "Fair Love" doesn't just represent a romantic drama that shifts the focus on the age difference between the two lovers, but with a mature look on the relationship it examines the every-day problems any couple has to deal with. With its well-written screenplay that most importantly scores with elaborate dialogues this romantic drama manages to be touching in a subtle manner. Unfortunately, the second half of the film can't keep up with the first.

A film like "Fair Love" lives and dies with its actors. Veteran actor Ahn Sung-ki ("My New Partner", "Nowhere to Hide") gives a very fine performance of the lonely man who lives his life in an orderly fashion and reached an age that makes him unwilling to change anything in it. That's also the reason why he doesn't respond to Nam-euns approach at first. Interestingly it seems that he had never had a real relationship with a woman in his whole life before! Until the day he met the girl Hyung-man has always isolated himself and led a quiet life which you can also regard as uneventful if you like. The camera specialist is also a bit too naive for this world and so he was fooled of a lot of money by his friend. It seems that he has made his own share of experience in life which led him to isolate himself more and more in his shell. Now he is the individual he is and he has to live with it.

However, he is then struck by love in the shape of Nam-eun, eventually. At first he thinks of Nam-eun's interest in him to be pure tomfoolery, of course he also has to consider that the girl might just be in search of a father substitute since her father was never there for her. But Nam-eun doesn't get along with people of her age, she is even bored being with them and thus constantly seeks the older man's company. Lee Ha-na ("Le Grand Chef") can keep up quite well with Ahn Sung-ki when it comes to acting and portrays a complex character whose actions aren't always easy to understand right away.
After the two have become a couple eventually they have to deal with the typical problems the age difference brings to their relationship. Many friends of Hyung-man consider the relationship sick, think of him as some sort of pervert and all of this even though the man now fallen in love has led his whole life very quietly without ever doing anything out of the ordinary. It is the first time Hyung-man comes out of his shell, acts according to his heart, overcomes his fears and becomes happy.

Hyung-man looks like a bitter man, he sits in his camera store, is a specialist in his field and has some likeable employees he only exchanges a few dry words with. If he doesn't like a customer he drags his feet over repairing his camera. Only in his relationship with Nam-eun he blossoms, yes he even behaves like a stupid teenager. He therefore confirms the saying: No matter how old you are, if you are in love, you become a child again.
His happy smile serves as a counter to anyone who asks him what he wants with such a young girl. Still, it proves true that Hyung-man starts to share his worldly wisdom with Nam-eun every now and then and thus plays the role of a father at least a bit after all. Nam-eun on the other hand tries to change him in certain ways, something that is impossible at his age, anyway. Aside from that there are also other problems in their relationship, Hyung-man can never truely leave his shell while Nam-eun has reached a point in her life at which she doesn't know where to go.

The characters in "Fair Love" are drawn realistically and there are no attempts at moving the audience to tears with unnecessary drama. The movie is honest in its depiction of problems within a relationship and with that can win over a wide audience. During that an unobtrusive bittersweet tone runs through the romantic drama. The supporting characters are well elaborated, the camera store quickly becomes a second home and so the tranquil pace isn't annoying at all. The only thing that is really problematic and derives the movie of a lot of its quality is the all present soundtrack full of english ballads, that bring a certain unnecessary corniness to the movie. The ending with its mixture of an indie movie and a music video also proves to be not really that successful. Somehow the movie didn't take the right exit at the end. This damages the overall quality of this otherwise mature and thoughtful romantic drama more than one would think at first. However, if only for the subject and some profound dialogue about the topic relationship "Fair Love" is still a good alternative to other romantic films.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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