Story: Im Ha-jeong (Han Hyo-joo) as well as her father (Kim Eung-soo) and younger brother Seung-hwi (Song Kwang-won) move into a small town.
Ha-jeong goes to college and hopes to be able to free herself from her past in the new place. Her mother has died and her older brother has run away. Her
father is drinking more and more these days and Seung-hwi's grades at school spiral downward as he wants to get away from home as soon as possible, too.
Luckily, Ha-jeong meets the boy Soo-wook (Lee Yeong-hoon) in a book store who she instantly develops an interest for. He might not really notice her yet, but the
girl has already some ideas how to win his heart. However, she doesn't know at that point that he has a girlfriend who is lying in a hospital in a comatose
state for three years now. Her attempts at approaching Soo-wook seem to be doomed as the boy still can't give up his girlfriend, especially not since he has
to blame himself for her current state. Still, Ha-jeong can't simply ignore her feelings for Soo-wook...
Review: Isn't it nice thinking back to those times when Korean romantic dramas were in their prime:
"Christmas in August" or "Bungee Jumping of their Own" immediately come to
mind and those films had some things in common back then - no candy-colored HD pictures and a story that was told according to its own needs of pacing.
Although "Ride Away" is from the year 2008 it feels like an older movie, almost like a return to those unique times of Korean cinema. In fact, the movie
manages to be believable until the very end, but the initial interest you have can't be kept up all the way through. Ultimately, you will get less than you were
It instantly catches your eye that "Ride Away" comes along with a story that has been told countless times before. There is nothing really new to it,
solely the innocent, naive love of the female protagonist can be appealing in the beginning, which is relativized at the latest, though, when the comatose
girlfriend of Soo-wook is introduced. The film gets an unnecessary soap opera appeal because of that and it surely doesn't deserve that as it proves to be
more credible and subtle than that in other places. Fortunately, the drama focuses not only on the more or less unrequited love - because Soo-wook may
have an interest in the girl, yet appears to be incapable of starting a new relationship out of feelings of guilt - but also on the girl's family, who
is carrying around quite some emotional baggage.
Anyway, that's also where another problem of the film arises. That the family hasn't had an easy life in the past is obvious right from the start. Poverty,
the alcoholism of the father and a mother who has chosen suicide are enough stuff that needs to be processed. Unfortunately, those subjects are dealt with
very excessively during only a few scenes instead of spreading them across the movie in a more balanced manner, which also gives the dialogues something
contrived. Additionally, it is also apparent that there was the attempt of working more with the characters than usual, but after all they seem more
shallow than it was probably intended. And that's a general contradiction in "Ride Away". The characters are unfolding on screen more than
you are used to see in a movie of this genre, but because of that it becomes even the more obvious that the scriptwriter should have put more effort
into fleshing them out.
Actress Han Hyo-joo ("Ad Lib Night") does a good job portraying a young girl that is on the threshold of becoming a woman and loses her last juvenile traits through a love that has only little chance of success. In contrast, Lee Yeong-hoon ("The Guard Post") seems rather cold and distant, even though it becomes soon apparent why Soo-wook is acting that way. After a good kick-off "Ride Away" soon loses momentum though and although the film isn't deprived from the possibility of a happy ending, there is still a feeling of familiarity unfolding, including scenes towards the end that are supposed to make you shed some tears. The romantic drama could have dragged on unnecessarily, thankfully the movie has a rather short running time of less than 90 minutes.
To one's big surprise the ending turns out to be pretty mature. There are two different ways of interpreting it, but in principle there is only one logical one. Furthermore, on a positive note there is a well used soundtrack and a nice atmosphere that has something bittersweet to it with a stronger focus on the sweet part. Especially the mood the movie creates with its slightly colorless, grainy pictures is convincing. Sadly "Ride Away" remains somewhat meaningless in the end. A better elaboration of the characters and especially of the drama involving the family would have been desirable. Moreover, it is bothersome that there is always a certain distance remaining between Ha-jeong and Soo-wook. It just doesn't click between them. That's unfortunate as you don't get that many of those half commercial, half subtle romantic stories these days anymore.