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Sunny - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2011

Comedy, Drama

Kang Hyeong-cheol

Yoo Ho-jeong
Jin Hee-kyung
Hong Jin-hee
Lee Yeon-kyeong
Sim Eun-kyeong
Kang So-ra
Kim Min-yeong
Park Jin-joo
Nam Bo-ra
Kim Bo-mi
Min Hyo-rin
Kim Si-hoo
Cheon Woo-hee
Kim Yeong-ok
Jeong Won-joong
Kim Ye-won
Kim Hye-ok
Park Yeong-seo

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Story: Na-mi (Yoo Ho-jeong) is a housewife who has completely aligned her life to her husband and daughter. One day, though, she meets her old schoolfriend Choon-hwa (Jin Hee-kyung) at the hospital by chance. Choon-hwa has cancer in the advanced stage and at best a few more months to live. Na-mi remembers their time at school and their old clique "Sunny". As a young girl Na-mi (Sim Eun-kyeong) changes schools and in her new class is immediately taken in by the leader of a girls clique, Choon-hwa (Kang So-ra). With her she faces several adventures, takes on another girls gang and finds her first love. In the present Choon-hwa wishes to see her old friends one last time. 25 years have passed since the time they shared at school and so Na-mi tries to bring together the old clique with the help of a private detective. However, this proves to be everything but easy. While the girls already had to deal with some problems in the past they had to face one or two strokes of fate in the last few years.

Review: "Sunny" was a giant success at the Korean box-office. If you look at the summary, though, you could think that this movie is mainly aimed at housewives at the end of their thirties, who want to delve into some nostalgia. So where does the movie's success stem from? What is the reason that this actually is not just an insignificant flick for a girls' night, but instead can appeal to male audiences as well? The answer is that "Sunny" features some greatly elaborated and colorful characters, while at the same time it presents a story that tells of the dreams in your youth and the harsh reality of real life. Accordingly, comedy and drama are alternated in the movie in a well achieved manner. A cross-over that seldomly works out as well as here.

Sunny - Film Screenshot 11

Nonetheless, I still would have been more skeptic towards this film, or maybe even would have avoided it, if it hadn't been by the same director who also brought us "Speedy Scandal". And in fact director Kang Hyeong-cheol once again manages to employ a few very nice funny moments, which more than anything else are convincing thanks to their pleasant wackiness. Compared to his former work things are developing more serious in "Sunny", although at least as entertaining. The protagonist of the story is a submissive wife and mother, who has forgotten that she shouldn't live her life solely for others. Her memories of her school days bestow more rough edges upon the at first glance bland Na-mi, so that she eventually blossoms up. Nevertheless, "Sunny" is more of an ensemble piece.

Sunny - Film Screenshot 12

The sheer amount of characters in the movie is impressive. Seven women stand in the center of events and since they sometimes quite differ from their teenage pendants concerning their character traits it's almost like fourteen different characters. Naturally the focus lies more on a handful of them, yet it's astonishing how much effort scriptwriter/director Kang put into the elaboration of the girls/women. However, the director's cut version that served as review material here, and is 15 minutes longer than the original version, could in fact have been cut down a bit towards the end of the middle part, because with 135 minutes the movie seems somewhat overlong at a few certain points. This is mainly because for a short while the director seems to have lost focus of what direction he wants to steer his comedy drama into.

Nevertheless, this is easy to get over thanks to the high pacing and entertaining dialogues throughout. The film is told parallely on two timelines that have a gap of 25 years between them. What's amazing is that the flashbacks are so well implemented into the movie that they are almost not recognizable as such. Yet, the movie also deals with the turbulent times at the end of the 1980s in a humoristic manner. In one scene the clique Sunny gets into a brawl with another girls gang they are at enmity with while protestors clash with policemen around them leading to an epic street battle that has some well done slapstick moments in store. How well drawn the girls actually are becomes especially apparent when Na-mi joins the group for the first time. The viewer is outright bombarded with colorful character traits of the girls which means that you are occupied for a while taking a closer look at the girls.

Sunny - Film Screenshot 13

On another note it's also laudable that the drama has been brought into the film in a pleasantly unobtrise manner. We know right from the start that Choon-hwa is about to die, yet there is no tearjerking celebration made out of this, which makes "Sunny" all the more moving. A certain bittersweet taste and a constant life-affirming atmosphere run through the whole movie. The drama is lightened up by a lot of music, the teenie dancing can be looked over and Sim Eun-kyeong ("Hansel and Gretel") gives a great performance as a young actress, as does the rest of the cast. In technical respects the movie stands out with a fancy lighting of scenes, that features a lot of sunlight and thus creates a warm and cozy as well as colorful atmosphere, and with a fantastic editing that makes past and present converge. "Sunny" is an emotional rollercoaster that unfortunately strays off course at some points or is rather overloaden, but director Kang manages to give weight and meaning to a story that easily could have addressed a female audience for entertaining purposes only. A great achievement.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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