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South Korea 2000

Romance, Drama, Sci-Fi

Lee Hyun-seung

Jeon Ji-hyun
Lee Jung-Jae
Kim Mu-saeng
Jo Seung-Yeon
Min Yun-jae
Choe Yun-Yeong

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Il Mare

Story: Kim Eun-ju (Jeon Ji-hyun) lives in a big house beside the sea, which bears the uncommon name "Il Mare". When Kim moves out she leaves a message in the mailbox for her successor, that she really would appreciate it if he could forward letters he receives addressed at her, to her new address.
In the year 1997 Han Sung-hyun (Lee Jung-Jae) just moves into his newly build house "Il Mare". He is a bit confused about the letter of an alleged previous owner, but he is even more puzzled by the date, which says 1999. He answers Kim Eun-ju's letter and the two have to find out that they are in fact temporally seperated from another by two years. For Sung-hyun Eun-ju resides two years in the future. Somehow, the mailbox seems to magically connect the two time levels. While Sung-hyun and Eun-ju continue writing letters to one another, some sort of relationship slowly starts to evolve. However, Eun-ju is still emotionally bound to a past love. Besides, it seems to be impossible for the two to meet each other...

Review: The story of "Il Mare" sounds familiar and this becomes even the more apparent as the movie did come out the same year as "Ditto", which had an astonishingly similar premise. This time, however, there is no old ham radio, with which our two protagonist can communicate with one another, but a mailbox instead. Although it is never resolved how and why this mailbox can create a portal through time, the film nevertheless manages to deal with that topic in a relatively unspectacular, yet welcome manner. It's just as it is and the audience gets along with it surprisingly well and fast without having to lament about it.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, there are some logical holes, though. Movies that, in whatever way, revolve around time traveling, should be told with a lot of care and a sense for small details, because the subject inherents lots of problems and paradoxes. "Il Mare" doesn't take it that seriously and so the ending, despite some nice approaching is a bit half-cooked. Yet, since we don't have a sci-fi-thriller here, but a movie that is first and foremost a romantic film this is easily forgiven.

Stars of the movie are Lee Jung-Jae and Jeon Ji-hyun ("My Sassy Girl"). Lee gives a nice performance as the lonely and melancholic young man, whose relationship with his father is best described as difficult, and who is secluding himself in an extraordinary house by the sea.
Jeon Ji-hyun can prove that she can do more than just play the tough girl in romantic comedies. She convinces as an introverted, loveable young woman, who earns a living by dubbing cartoons.
The chemistry between the two actors is just right, but somehow there is still something missing. The characters lack some in-depth. We really would have liked to get to know more about their lives and characters in general. Instead we get lots of monologues or dreamy lonely walks. This, without a doubt, provides some attraction, but in the end we just don't know much about the two lovers. However, this criticism applies more to Sung-hyun than to Eun-ju. About Eun-ju we at least get to know something, for example there are some scenes with her best friend, who works at a comic bookstore, or there are some certain moments with her boyfriend, that tell us a little bit more about her.

Concerning the pictures director Lee Hyun-seung surely did a fine job. With dreamy-melancholic shots he captures the sea, the shore, avenues and the feelings of the actors very fittingly. Also impressive are the sets, primarily the house "Il Mare", of course, which will really amaze you with its exceptional architecture.
Accompanied by the sounds of a quiet piano, we dive deep into scenes that are at the same time amiable, but also distant and full of feelings of yearning. The ever-present motif of the sea underlines these feelings of the viewer even more.
By using interesting camera angles and nice blendings between past and future Lee Hyun-seung creates a pleasant to watch stream of pictures, in which the emotions of the two protagonists have enough space to slowly unfold.

The story is interesting and has some nice surprises up its sleeve. When Sung-hyun visits Eun-ju at the train station in his time, a Eun-ju who doesn't know him yet, so that from her perspective she only looks in the face of a stranger, we realize that it's these scenes that shine with an intensity you can't deny. There are quite a few of these nice moments and some fine twists and aha-experiences, too. The love story is nicely told and really is appealing. Towards the end, however, when the two finally want to meet each other in person, there are some logical gaps making their way onto the screen.
Even though I'm pretty sure that the majority of the audience won't share my opinion about this I really would have prefered a different ending, which would have given the movie more impact. Actually, when you think about it, the film also contains this ending, yet it's not explicitly shown. You surely are asking yourself now how a film is supposed to have two different endings at the same time. The problems all travels through time come along with, is the answer!

Without getting too much into details: Let's take a well-known theory as an example. Person A travels back in time and kills his great grandfather. Accordingly, Person A would have never been born, thus also wouldn't have been able to travel through time to kill his great grandfather. Now we have a paradox, that many scientiest tried to explain or tried to come up with a solution for. The most reasonable explanation, in my humble opinion, how to avoid any paradox is to hypothesize the existence of parallel universes. By utilizing this theory it is possible that person A could kill his great grandfather and yet could still live on. This is because he actually wouldn't alter his own present, but the one of a different universe! One universe would always remain unaltered by the attemps of person A to change anything by traveling back in time. The alteration by the hands of A would "just" cause, that another universe/parallel world is created, in which A wouldn't exist!
Keeping that in mind, "Il Mare" actually has two different endings, of which only one is shown and moreover it's even the more unlikely one.

Never mind that there is still the famous question why the two protagonists didn't make a fortune by playing lottery, the movie has some nice ideas to offer. As already said the ending is a bit half-cooked and deprives the film of some of its magic, but in exchange we are told a nice love story in an extraordinary way and with tranquil and melancholic pictures. Since "Il Mare" has only few lengths, even if there isn't much happening most of the time, and because the film even though conveying emotions of loneliness and longing, can also create a happy and life-affirming mood, the movie shouldn't only be recommended to fans of outstanding love stories.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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