Director: Lee Jang-hoon
Cast: So Ji-sub, Son Ye-jin, Kim Ji-hwan, Ko Chang-seok, Lee Yoo-jin, Bae Yoo-ram, Lee Joon-hyuk, Son Yeo-eun
Runtime: 2 hrs 11 mins
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 19 April 2018
Synopsis: Based on a Japanese original novel called "Be with You", which sold over a million copies in 2004, the movie tells the story of a woman who dies and leaves behind her son and husband. She then returns a year later, putting her fate on the line for the sake of her family.
Be With You is the Korean remake of an award winning 2004 Japanese movie of the same name (Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu). It is based on a novel written by Takuji Ichikawa, who is also known for other film-adapted titles like Heavenly Forest (2006) and Say Hello for Me (2007). This fantasy romance drama story is full of imagination, and is set to pull at your heartstrings…
The movie opens with a children’s story of a family of penguins. The mother penguin passed away and went to the heavens, but often peeps from the clouds at her family. One day as it rained, she rode on the ‘rain train’ and reunited with her family. Likewise, that’s what the young boy, Ji-ho, believed in. After his mother, Soo-a, passed away, he kept hoping for the rainy season to come so she could return. His father, Woo-jin, played along with the boy’s imagination, as it would be too cruel to crush the only thing that helps the young boy cope with the loss.
Sure enough, the rainy season came and they went out to wait on her return. However, she didn’t come as expected. Disappointed, they make their way back home through a tunnel and the unexplainable happened - a lady who looks exactly like Soo-a appeared before them. However, she has zero memory about them. The story continues with the family helping Soo-a recall the past, with some comical and cute interactions in between. Soo-a slowly forms back those memories and finds out the truth behind her being there at that time and space.
Without further divulging the storyline, the narrative of this movie is indeed a charming one. It’s no wonder it had such positive reception back in 2004 when the Japanese movie was first released. The storyline is not only thoughtful, but delicately brings out the feelings of grief and loss without diluting any part of it. What’s more endearing is also the perspective of the child. Coupled with the stellar performance from So Ji-sub (plays as Woo-jin, the father), Son Ye-jin (plays as Soo-a, the mother) and child actor Kim Ji-hwan (plays as Ji-ho), the movie is packed with ‘feels’. One of the key scenes would be when Ji-ho delivers his graduation speech about his dream. That unexpected thoughtfulness and maturity from the child and his message towards his mum is heartwarming but breaks heart at the same time.
From a production perspective, the film had a nice selection of locations, which matched close enough to the storyline. The intricacies of the non-linear story telling was also considered and done smoothly to compliment the main story. While the plot twist wasn’t the most creative or original, that too worked well with the story which leads in nicely to the ending of the movie.
The movie runtime was as long as 131 minutes. But be assured, it didn’t feel like it at all. Overall, the movie was paced nicely and didn’t feel draggy. While the tale is after all a fantasy, the expression of the human experience was one that’s relatable and close to the heart. Though the ending was expected, it still gave it a nice closure and parts on a note of positivity!
(Be With You is not just another melancholic movie, but is one which tugs at the heart through an extraordinary fantasy)
Review by Tho Shu Ling