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Original Title:
Daenseo-ui sunjeong

South Korea 2005

Drama, Romance, Comedy

Park Young-hoon

Park Keon-hyeong
Moon Geun-yeong
Yun Chang
Park Won-sang

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Innocent Steps

Story: Na Young-sae (Park Keon-hyeong) is the best ballroom dancer in Korea. His long-term rival Jung Hyun-soo (Yun Chang), however, not only pinches his female partner, but is also responsible for a knee injury of Young-sae. Being retired, the former ballroom dancer leads a cheerless life in a run-down apartment, having no aims in life anymore.
One day his manager visits him and tries to stimulate him to start from scratch. He already has chosen a new female partner for him, soon arriving at airport directly from China. Yet, shortly after Young-sae gave his new partner Jang Chae-min (Moon Geun-yeong) shelter in his home and has entered a bogus marriage with her for her to be able to stay in Korea, there is a big revelation. Jang Chae-min is actually her sister Jang Chae-rin and hasn't even a clue how to dance!
After a long back and forth Na Young-sae takes on the challenge and plans to teach Chae-rin how to dance in only three months.
While Jung Hyun-soo is again plotting a scheme against his rival, there are also two police officers who are upon the married couple's heels and want to reveal the fake marriage. However, Young-sae and Chae-rin are in fact getting closer...

Review: "Innocent Steps" is one of the few gems of the genre, that can really stick out of the meanwhile enormous mountain of Korean romantic sobstuff. Yeah, actually it's even a dancing movie and yet Park Young-hoon's work is surprisingly good. You might have noticed by my choice of words that I'm really not into dance films, but here I gladly make an exception, especially since the dancing aspect of the movie is indeed always present, but never pushes itself to the fore, this way avoiding to become annoying.

In the center of the movie's events is the relationship between Young-sae and Chae-rin. Of course it's a predictable one right from the start, however it manages to grow nice and slowly and is told with a good eye for details. Dance is the medium which connects the two lovers.
While Young-sae is quite the harsh teacher at the beginning, he starts to become more courteous towards Chae-rin when he recognizes what of a talented, obedient and loveable student he has. This is reflected in some nice and subtle display of affection. When the two think about how they officially might have met each other, or when they brood over how Chae-rin is supposed to call her "husband" in public, then this surely has its undeniable charm. When both of them have to give an account of their marriage before a commission and have to explain why they married, their tales of how they met and what characteristics they started to like in each other suddenly become reality. Their completely fictitious stories of their feelings for each other take on a real form and even a fool couldn't miss their feelings for each other. Naturally, this is all very cheesy and there might be a few other scenes that could best be described with this word, yet these moments never pass the invisible line of the tolerable. This is a feat not everyone manages to pull off and is also a good marker for a successful romantic comedy.

"Innocent Steps" works because of its actors and they surely show what they are made of. Park Keon-hyeong shines as the dejected ex- professional dancer, who gets the strength back again to reach for new heights. His sometimes pretty cold and stern nature just conceals an obvious soft core.
Actually, I was never a big fan of Moon Geun-yeong ("My little Bride"), because she somehow always seemed a little bit to childish and naive. This point of view changed after seeing her as Chae-rin. The audience accompanies her on her journey of slowly growing up until she becomes a fully matured person. At first being very credulous and shapable she evolves into a down-to-earth and self-confident character, eventually becoming a grown-up woman.
It shouldn't be skipped that the two actors really know their stuff and give a nice dancing performance, too. Especially, Moon Geun-yeong is very convincing in this aspect and even proves that she can be really feminine if she wants to.

As it is often the case with Korean romantic comedies, there is a sudden turn in the mood after the first half of the movie and the dramatic part becomes prevalent. Young-sae once again is taken in by his arch-rival, can't participate in the dancing contest and is embittered again. Tears are shed and it becomes apparent that we can't expect a Happy End anymore, where the two dancers win the first price and finally confess their love to each other. A lot of critiics didn't like that change in the mood, I, however, found it really refreshing and was very happy to see that "Innocent Steps" isn't one of that many other predictable love flicks. Sure, there is a sudden change in the atmosphere, but it is a slight one, and putting more drama into the movie made the overall picture also look more realistic and gave the love story more impact.
Some people might also feel a little bit disappointed of the fact that the "bad" guys escape unscathed. Especially Jung Hyun-soo is a guy who should have gotten the stick.

The film gets more color by a good portion of humour, which is also helped by Chae-rin's accent and her repititive "Mister". There are also a few side characters, for example the two police officers who try to prove that the marriage is just a fake one, that can add to the sometimes funny atmosphere. Unfortunately, the two also are in the lead of a side story that gets an end all too soon, leaving us asking for more.
The dancing sequences are brought into play very well, and those who are sad that they never actually saw the two main actors dance with each other, despite their corporated training, should be satisfied at least a bit when the ending credits roll over the screen, because it provides us with an additional dancing scene.

"Innocent Steps" is a well-made romantic comedy, that might drift a little bit too much into drama halfway through. However, the dancing motif is implemented very well and unobtrusively, and the love story radiates a lot of charm thanks to two great actors. Definitely recommendable!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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