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Original Title:
Neoneun nae unmyeong

South Korea 2005

Drama, Romance

Park Jin-pyo

Hwang Jeong-min
Jeon Do-yeon
Na Mun-hee
Ryu Seung-su
Seo Ju-hie
Go Su-hee
Jeong Yu-seok
Kim Bu-seon

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You are my Sunshine

Story: Farmer Seok-joong (Hwang Jeong-min) is about to hit his 40s and finally wants to find a wife. His plans to marry a Filipino woman, since this is popular these days, are soon discarded as he wants to find his true love in life. Luckily, he really seems to find it in shape of Eun-ha (Jeon Do-yeon). Eun-ha works at a Coffee-shop, whose employees not only deliver coffee right to your home, but also provide you with another special service if the customer wants to. Seok-joong doesn't care about that, however, as he has fallen in love with the girl. He ensnares his beloved, and after being amused by Seok-joong at first, the girl understands that he isn't only serious about his feelings, but she also realizes that she could find all the things in his arms she thought the world would deny her all her life.
Eun-ha's and Seok-joong's difficult relationship finally blossoms, but Eun-ha's past suddenly catches up with her. Her former husband reemerges and tries to destroy the relationship she has. But all of that is nothing compared to the terrible news Seok-joon gets one day. Eun-ha has AIDS...

Review: Stop clicking somewhere else! Granted, after reading the plot summary you might be tempted to head off somewhere else. Not yet another TV-tearjerker drama... But wait, this isn't just your ordinary drama! "You are my Sunshine" proves to be surprisingly multilayered and more than anything else... "different". It's not without a reason that director Park won himself several awards with his genuine work. His mix of a romantic comedy and a melodrama might sound all too familiar, yet it stands out with an interesting presentation and puts its focus where most other movies don't care to take a closer look. We don't get to see Eun-ha lying in her deathbed terminally ill - to be exactly she doesn't even look ill at all. This movie doesn't aim for some cheap tears, but wants to portray a relationship in a little different way than what we are used to see, while it also deals with taboo topics in Korea like AIDS and prostitution.

In the story summary there might be more spoilering than in most other reviews, but that's necessary, because only this way it is possible to concentrate on what's really of importance in this film. It's shocking how little Koreans know about AIDS, at least if we believe what the film tells us. According to a housewife HIV is an illness that is actually airborne, while prostitutes don't take any precautions and even don't visit their doctor at a regular basis. Park somewhat makes it his obligation to throw light on the subject, but he wraps up his story with a nice romantic tale. At the same time he also explores the Korean red light district, and at times even does so with a wink, without running the risk to lose any of his credibility. Don't forget, you can order your coffee along with a daughter of joy if you like...

Anyway, it takes about one hour until the socio-critical undertone crawls up to the surface. Before that we get nice romantic comedy stuff, even though you might miss some real laughs. Jeon Do-yeon gives a nice, even though a bit clichéd performance as a prostitute with a heart. Hwang Jeong-min ("Bloody Tie") portrays the naive farmer Seok-joon, who is looking for his one and only true love in life. His attempts to win over Eun-ha and his numerous, at first shy endeavors to show her that he is really honest about his feelings finally pay off at some point. When Eun-ha starts to lay down her rejecting behavior, even though she never really left a doubt that she can be anyone's woman for an hour, a nice romance begins to unfold. The positive mood and the newly in love couple can create a lyrical feeling inside the viewer. Nevertheless, just when it's about half time, the movie makes a turn. Eun-ha's past catches up with her, things are getting messy, and therefore it all gets a bit more worse than expected.

Naturally, the viewer will feel somewhat betrayed by the sudden turn of events. Now, everything gets incredibly melodramatic, tears are flowing, yet the film still never drowns unnecessarily in clichés. AIDS as an illness isn't as superfluously expatiated here than it would had been in many Hollywood films, and, at all time, the story of "You are My Sunshine" centers more around the complex relationship of the two main characters instead of simply going for some tears. The topic the film deals with and the many socia-critical themes are brought into the movie with care and caution, and luckily never immoderately jump into the foreground, which eventually makes this film work out so much better than expected.
Unfortunately, the film starts to drag a bit from the second half onwards. Moreover, the audience feels emotionally distant to the main protagonists, which is because they themselve also drift away from one another. This is somewhat frustrating, and at some point you may even lose interest in where the story might be heading to, even the more as you aren't really sure anymore if the script writer actually knew in what direction he steered the movie. However, luckily, in the end it shows that all events work towards one certain ending.

Especially well done are the acting achievements of the two main actors. Their characters evolve throughout the whole film, so that in the end you even might not recognize them anymore. During one allusion to "One Fine Spring Day", which the two lovers watch at a cinema, the question is introduced if love can actually change and maybe even fizzle out? Well, it doesn't seem to be the case, here. It's more that the characters undergo a change, but love remains an unchanging constant between them. A constant, that may be in need of being defined anew on several occasions, but what may prove to be a problem to a mathematician, is a welcome change for the viewer. With his ending director Park once again shows that his intention wasn't to create another typical tearfilled, sobbing variant of the well-known "illness-of-the-week" premise, but that he wanted to do something extraordinary.

Sadly, the film has some downsides. Many topics are just touched and you have to ask yourself, for example, what it was all about, concerning Eun-ha's former husband. The second half at first disconnects from the movie, because of the sudden turn, but thanks to the actors, as well as the very good supporting cast, e.g. Seok-joon's mother, you will find your way back into the movie before the finale. Still, especially towards the end there are some scenes where you don't feel as emotionally involved as it could have been possible. At least that's not that often the case.
Park Jin-pyo ("Too young to die") creates a genuine movie, that can surprise and touch you. More than anything else it is a welcome change to the same old Korean romance and melodrama story. Mainly because of the interesting way the director approaches the themes of his movie, "You are my Sunshine" clearly deserves to be recommended.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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