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Original Title:
Wanee wa Junah

South Korea 2001

Drama, Romance

Kim Yong-gyun

Kim Hee-seon
Ju Jin-mo
Choi Kang-hee
Cho Seung-woo

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Wanee and Junah

Story: Wa-nee (Kim Hee-seon) is an animator who lives together with her boyfriend Jun-ah (Ju Jin-mo). Although she is happy with her boyfriend, there is something that subsides her into melancholy and lets her seek refuge in her work.
Jun-ah hopes for his breakthrough as a script-writer although he still has some problems to find work as he refuses to stick to commercial guidelines, but instead wants to shine with genuineness. Moreover, he suddenly doesn't get the warmth he seeks from Wa-nee, anymore. Since the time Wanee's friend So-young (Choi Kang-hee) stayed over for some nights, Wa-nee seems to be haunted by old memories. Jun-ah finds out that her sorrow is somehow connected to her half-brother Yeong-mi (Cho Seung-woo), who was abroad and will soon make a visit at home.
So what was the relationship between Wa-nee and her brother? And will she finally be able to go on with her engagement with Jun-ah?

Review: "Wanee and Junah" is one of those quite dramas, that focuses on its characters and is a worthwhile movie experience for those who can get along with the pacing of the story and the individual persons.
There is not much of a story to discover. Rather, we do get an insight into Wa-nee's past every now and then and thus new sides of the characters are revealed. We even have to see everything that preceded in a whole new context. So especially the relationship between the two main protagonists is always in motion and undergoes several changes.
It's the little things that director Kim Yong-gyun placed value on, and even if he doesn't show the visual finesse of his later work "The Red Shoes", his directing and the cinematography in general is nevertheless over-the-top.

A movie which explores the individual personalities and relationships between the characters is of course in strong need of good actors. Kim Hee-seon, who was more convincing because of her looks than her acting abilities in "Bichunmoo", proves with this movie in an impressive manner that she is in fact capable of carrying a movie forward all by herself. She always manages to express her feelings in a subtle way, but she also doesn't fail to do so in the more emotional scenes. Therefore, even her harshest critics have to admit, that Kim masters the complexity of her role without seemingly much effort.

Ju Jin-mo has a little less on-screen time than his collegue, but he is also convincing in his role. The viewer can instantly identify with him as he stands up for certain ideals and expresses his love for Wa-nee more than once. The more we suffer along with him, because his girlfriend behaves more and more indifferent and rejecting towards him. Yet, he shows some incredible understanding for his girlfriend and her situation. He just gives her the time she needs.
The supporting roles have been cast good, too, although with the exception of Cho Seung-woo und Choi Kang-hee they remain more or less insignificant.

Besides the already mentioned well done directing, the movie also features some very good flashbacks that blend in perfectly. Sometimes we are even taken from the present into the past in one single shot! The moment you do understand that we are part of a flashback now, is the moment when you won't have any problems with the rest of the flashbacks, anymore, and there will be no confusion in the future ones neither. It is a worthwhile experience to have the feeling that we are oftentimes part of two time levels and that the events of the past undoubtably add to our understanding of the present.

Really amazing are the comicsequences that are implemented at the beginning and the end of the movie, and which genuine style of drawing is very charming. It seems like (and that's in fact the technique that was utilized as I found out later) as if the scenes were captured the normal way in real time and every single frame was drawn over using watercolors afterwards. This gives the faces an exceptional realistic look, despite the comic-style and gives the opportunity for some impressive three-dimensional camera movements.
Of course these scenes do also serve a purpose as director Kim portrays the childhood memories of the protagonists using this unusual trick shot.

"Wanee and Junah" has its lengths, but in contrast to other movies of the genre this one avoids feeling too isolating or melancholic. The movie never tries to go for some cheap tears, but instead explores the life of two individuals whose relationship isn't working out that well anymore, doing so with an eye for details and on a quite realistic level.
Most of the time we do accompany Wa-nee on her journey to deal with her past, hoping that she might be able to let it go one day.
Apart from that, there are also some interesting little side storys like the one of Jun-ah, who as a script writer has to struggle with the producers and their commercial ideas of how a script has to look like, and there is also the story of So-yeong who always had feelings for Wa-nee's halfbrother Yeong-mi.
Good actors, the impressively implemented, in no way cheesy comic sequences, and a story that really (and successfully) tries to explore the characters in a realistic manner, without giving in to the demands of the Korean romantic drama genre stereotypes, make "Wanee and Junah" a fine drama.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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