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Original Title:
Meotjin Haru

South Korea 2008

Drama, Romance

Lee Yoon-ki

Jeon Do-yeon
Ha Jung-woo
Kim Hye-ok
Sin Yeong-jin
Kim Yeong-min
Jo Si-nae
Jang So-yeon
Oh Ji-eun
Lee Seung-yeon
Jeong Woo-hyeok
Jeong Kyeong
Kim Hee-jeong

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My Dear Enemy

Story: Byeong-woon (Ha Jung-woo) is jobless, a dreamer and kills time at a betting office, even though the days when he was still actively betting are long over as he is constantly broke. One day he gets a visit from his ex-girlfriend Hee-su (Jeon Do-yeon) who demands the money that she lent him a year ago. Byeong-woon tells her that he hasn't got her money at the moment, but Hee-su isn't content with that answer. She is only about to leave when she gets her money back. For ever-smiling Byeong-woon this is no big deal, because despite the bad circumstances he is living under, he always managed to get by somehow. So why shouldn't he be able to get the money for Hee-su, too? After all he is a ladies' man and therefore knows some women he can lend money from in order to repay his debt to Hee-su. Thus, Byeong-woon and Hee-su go on a small city trip and visit some old friends of Byeong-woon. Doing so the two recall their past time together, but the cold and feisty Hee-su leaves no doubt that she only looked for Byeong-woon because of her money. But is that really true?

Review: I still remember how difficult it was for me to write a summary about Lee Yoon-ki's debut work "This Charming Girl". It isn't any different with his fourth movie, yet as a critic you learn how to help yourself over the years and to find a few ways to conceil your helplessness. In Lee's film there isn't happening a lot apparently, and yet there is so much that has to be read between the lines. "My Dear Enemy" is extremely realistic and dreamy at the same time. It's a movie that takes its time to bring certain emotions to the screen, namely those which other filmmakers hesitate to show, since the framework that has to be build up when presenting such emotions could simply bore some viewers. Certain situations take time to be credibly put on celluloid. Lee Yoon-ki doesn't care about cinematic standards, his indie-film roots are still obvious despite the mainstream-like look of "My Dear Enemy" and so he creates a fascinating road-trip movie through a Korean city, during which the audience is taken on a very special trip along with the characters.

Nevertheless, it has to be clearly pointed out that "My Dear Enemy" isn't a movie for everyone. For this to be the case the pacing just is too slow and an audience is demanded that is capable and willing to appreciate what the movie wants to say behind what obviously isn't told. As already stated there isn't going on much on screen so the movie could simply elude a disinterested viewer and become a frustrating waste of time, without those viewers even touching the diversity of what is said between the lines. However, it's actually not that difficult to get captured by the relationship and chemistry created between the two protagonists.
Hee-su and Byeong-woon are as different from one another as it gets. Hee-su always seemed to be a bit feisty and shows other people a general facade of cold disinterest. She is especially behaving like that in front of her ex-boyfriend, even though it becomes pretty obvious, that this might also be the result of a deep-sitting disappointment.

Jeon Do-yeon ("My Secret Sunshine") gives a great performance and together with Ja Jung-woo, who does make you wonder if he really is the same guy who played the brutal serial killer in "The Chaser", the two create a chemistry that carries the viewer through the movie as if on a soft carpet. We see the events more or less through the eyes of Hee-su, yet Byeong-woon's character seems the most interesting. We get to know about him that he takes life never too seriously, despite the many throwbacks he had to experience. He is always kind, thankful and in a certain way always at other people's service, without seeming too obeisant.

He is always happy to help others, even though he has to deal with a lot of bigger problems himself. These are character traits that make it easy for us to believe that he has some female friends, who are glady helping him out with money. That is because in a perfect world these are traits that should be held in high regard. Moreover, he is somewhat of a child in his heart, also a dreamer, who wants to open a rice wine shop in Spain. But that women actually like boyish men, like we are told here, is something I find hard to believe, at least in respect to my own experiences. Anyway, Byeong-woon is so interesting because of his view on life. When being asked by Hee-su if he would sleep with an older acquainted woman for lending him some money, he answers that this wouldn't be the worst thing on the planet, would it? Concerning the question if he thinks that this is normal, he simply replies: "Depends on how you look at it. If you think it's good, it's good. If you think it's bad, then it's bad."

Maybe Byeong-woon also likes to help others because he doesn't want to deal with his own share of problems and prefers to flee them. Director Lee Yoon-ki provides us with enough material to think about. The stories of Hee-su and Byeong-woon, who both are living seperated from one another for one year and have found a new partner in life since that and have already broken up with that one for the same reasons, leave enough space for speculations, too. "My Dear Enemy", which original title means something like "A wonderful day", carefully draws its characters and does so in the most awkward situations, which nonetheless just seem all too familiar to us, since it's stuff right out from real life. For example, there is one meeting with an old friend of Byeong-woon and her husband, whereas Hee-su has to attend the appointment, too. The awkward silence and the uncomfortable feeling shown in that situation feel very real, and those who are asking themselves what purpose such scenes serve and if they aren't actually stealing too much time, as it would have been desirable that the 2-hours running time of the movie are cut down, anyway, maybe should also ask themselves if these aren't the moments in which the picture of the two protagonists is truely drawn.

Technically, Lee Yoon-ki reminds us of his former works. Long shots without a single cut, which create a special naturalness, dwelling in certain scenes, even though there isn't happening anything at all in them anymore, which of course is in order to create a certain feeling of authenticity, and many shots through windows or glass form the overall technical aspect. That the director had a bit more money to his disposal for technical equipment is also apparent in some impressive tracking shots, which also were made without one single cut at times. All of this creates a certain distinctive cinematic magic, which already was all apparent in Lee's debut work. The audience feels as if themselves being fellow passengers on this road trip through the big city and the many serene scenes ask you to reflect or to rest from this trip. The two actors also contribute their part to make this trip so fascinating, and the question if Hee-su visited her ex-boyfriend only because of the money is also resolved in a natural manner. The relatively open ending also isn't frustrating since everything has already been said in a subtle way, actually. And so a magical journey, which stands out because of its naturalness and sincerity, comes to an end, which leaves you with a warm, fuzzy feeling in your stomach.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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