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Original Title:
Hye-hwa, Dong

South Korea 2010


Min Yong-geun

Yoo Da-in
Yoo Yeon-seok
Park Hyeok-kwon
Kim Joo-ryeong
Choi Hee-won
Jeong Jae-min

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Story: Hye-hwa (Yoo Da-in) works for a veterinarian (Park Hyeok-kwon) who also runs an animal shelter for stray dogs. Deep in her heart the young woman still mourns the death of her baby that didn't even get one day old. The father of the child, Han-soo (Yoo Yeon-seok), left her shortly before her delivery. Six years later he suddenly turns up again after finishing his military service and tries to find out about the whereabouts of their daughter. That is because a document fell into his hands that says that their daughter was put up for adoption. Hye-hwa's mother and his own seem to have made a secret decision to give the child into the hands of someone else and lie to the young parents. At first Hye-hwa doesn't seem to be interested in finding her daughter but after Han-soo has tracked down the little girl, her maternal feelings are coming to the surface as well. She even goes as far as to secretly visit the pre-school her supposed daughter attends and talk to her...

Review: All those who believe that indie dramas always have to be artsy and profound but on the other hand incomprehensible and lengthy as well will be given a lesson by "Re-encounter". This character drama sketches individuals marked by life, who carry deep scars with them and are withdrawn, yet manages to weave an emotional bond to the viewer at any time. This leads to the drama having some surprisingly strong emotional moments in store that work especially well because of their subtlety. The complex and difficult situation of the protagonists is drawn with a lot of sharp edges and stands as the stage for natural emotions that look as if being taken out of real life. "Re-encounter" knows how to put to use its strengths.

Hye-hwa seems to be a happy young woman, but soon it turns out that behind this facade there is someone hiding who is searching for bliss and couldn't find it anywhere, yet. She cottons up to the son of the vet until he even sees her as his mother. Maybe she also believes that there might be more than just ties of friendship connecting her to the father of the boy. But life hasn't anything good in store for Hye-hwa. Instead of finally finding the love she deserves a man from her past enters her life again and confronts her with something which she believed to have put behind her years ago. It's not strange at all how she reacts when she sees Han-soo again. There is too much pain he caused her in the past.

Han-soo himself isn't really a hateful guy either, simply a young man who made some mistakes in life. He couldn't take responsibility for his child since he lacked the necessary maturity and his erratic behavior was the catalyst for further bad choices to come. But Hye-hwa doesn't know anything about this at first. To her he is just the man who abandoned her and his own child. The new development puts everything into a new perspective, though. Eventually, you have to ask yourself if it's not the parents of the two who set them up. Han-soo shows his sensitivity because he couldn't let go after all those years and now tries to save what there is left to save. He regrets not having the family that he could have had.

"Re-encounter" is told on two timelines parellely so that the background of the story becomes more and more apparent and more than once there are one or two revelations thrown in. Initially, Hye-wa isn't easy to figure out, since she has a lot of walls build up around her in order to avoid more suffering, but as things evolve we start to get to understand her better. Yoo Da-in ("Cinderella") handles her role fantastically and works with her emotions on a very subtle level but at the same time also gives them a lot of different shades. Hopefully, we will get to see more of her in the future. Yoo Yeon-seok on the other hand sometimes lacks some color in his role, but his character of the naive boy, who is plagued by his irresponsibility until this very day as if it were a demon haunting him, is still convincing enough.

The drama also works with some metaphors, especially the dogs are serving as such, more than anything else one special one Hye-hwa wants to capture. Apart from that there are crystal clear pictures, thankfully no shaky handcamera work and a soundtrack, that underlines the emotional moments fittingly at the right time without being sappy. That's also what's making "Re-encounter" work out so well in general. There are no contrived feelings but real drama. That also means that a very melancholic tone runs through the whole film but the drama still never gets unbearable since the characters are growing towards the end. Some good dialogues and surprisingly effective emotional scenes that never descend to oversentimentality make "Re-encounter" a really well done drama.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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