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Original Title:

South Korea 2010

Drama, Romance

Ryu Hoon-yi

Yu Ji-tae
Yun Jin-seo
Lim Ye-jin
Jeong In-gi
Oh Woo-Jeong
Ji Dae-han
Jin Seo
Ko Yu-seon
Lim Ho
Sung Ji-ru
Yang Eun-yong

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Secret Love

Story: Jin-woo (Yu Ji-tae) falls into a coma after an accident. His wife Yeon-yi (Yun Jin-seo), who he married shortly before the incident, is devasted. She neglects work and only manages to carry on living by watching her wedding video over and over again. She has abandoned hope for her husband to regain cosciousness for quite a while already.
One day Jin-woo's brother Jin-ho comes to Korea. Yeon-yi picks him up at the airport and gets a shock of a lifetime. Jin-ho is Jin-woo's twin brother. The two resemble each other like two peas in a pod and it turns out that since their childhood days both of them made fun of others by not telling them about the fact that they are twins. Thus, Yeon-yi doesn't really know how to handle Jin-ho. His obvious advances towards her are answered with coldness even though he tries everything in his power to make Yeon-yi have some fun in life again. Eventually, she can't resist the young man's charm anymore. But that's just when Jin-woo finally awakens from his coma...

Review: "Secret Love" is a romantic drama that makes it difficult for you to find access to it from the very beginning. An introduction that leaves some questions to be answered and makes the audience wonder who is who and while that may be appealing under the right circumstances it's simply frustrating here. We don't know which twin we have before us, what everything is about, the only thing we know right from the start is that it's about two twin brothers. As time progresses the puzzle pieces fall into place, but sadly by far not every one. "Secret Love" struggles with a chaotic narration that often makes the viewer lose any interest in following the events. Furthermore, there are numerous logical gaps at the end and questions, whose resolution we somehow hoped for in the end, remain unanswered until the credits roll. Even the ending doesn't feel conciliatory.

Yu Ji-tae ("Hello, Schoolgirl", "Oldboy") is an experienced actor and so the opportunity to play two individuals in a movie at the same time must have been quite tempting for him. In fact, Yu succeeds giving the two characters a few special character traits. It's just that the screenplay doesn't give any room for character development at all, even to that degree that the two brothers seem like an enigma at times. Especially Jin-woo who eventually behaves totally different than how he did in the beginning seems like a different person. Under the prevailing circumstances that's not a surprise, you might argue. His brother tries to steal his wife after all. But his change in character remains without any transition. Character development is nothing you will find here.
Yun Jin-seo ("A Good Day to Have an Affair"), who has already played at Yu Ji-tae's side in "Oldboy", only that time as his sister, can't be blamed either. She puts in quite some effort and so the source of the problems really doesn't need to be looked for on the part of the actors.

The scatterbrained script and the lacking focus are what's giving the film some real problems. "Secret Love" doesn't even know what genre it wants to be. At first the movie is without a doubt a drama, but during the finale it also suddenly becomes an erotic thriller. Yes, you read that right, and even if Yu Ji-tae and Yun Jin-seo don't show that much skin their sex scenes are very evident and full of erotic. Yes, they are even hotter than what you are used to see from Korean productions. When Yeon-yi can't be sure anymore who she is sleeping with this brings the thriller into play, too. But what's this aiming at? Who does Yeon-yi really love? The person who once saved her on the bridge? But who of the twins was that? Even concerning this the viewer can't be sure for a certain amount of time. And what about the mysterious woman who apparently has fallen in love with Jin-woo? Or maybe Jin-ho?

"Secret Love" leaves us in the dark and let's the characters behave in a way that seems unrealistic and only aiming at creating more uncertainty with the viewer. What purpose does the inserted love story between Yeon-yi's mother and a priest, that actually never really comes to bear, serve? There are simply too many half-baked ideas. The middle part in which the movie turns out to be a typical romantic flick even comes with a bunch of cheesy love ballads that will just make you roll your eyes. This is also where we realize that the chemistry between the two lovers isn't right at any time, either. As already said, the film gets more thriller characteristics towards the end, but the showdown on the bridge and its outcome prove to be quite artificial and silly. Also, the last lines in the movie, especially since they were most likely intended to be profound, will make you slap your forehead.

When looking at the imagery of "Secret Love" you would expect high quality cinema. In fact, the movie might have become a nice romantic drama if it only had had serious flaws in one or two areas, but with its messed up script "Secret Love" is just a frustrating experience and a waste of both actors' talent. A film that's not thought through, but wants to be more mysterious than it actually is and only makes you guess what its real intention behind the premise might have been. However, the subject is never brought onto screen in an at least nearly effective fashion. Therefore, we can never suffer or sympathize with the three and a cold wall on the screen seperates us from the characters of the movie. The only thing that will stick with you are the hot sex scenes, but this surely wasn't the director's intention. Even fans of Yu Ji-tae should consider avoiding "Secret Love".

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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