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  Publicity Stills of "You are my Sunshine"
(Courtesy from Festive Films)

In Korean with English & Chinese Subtitles
Genre: Drama
Director: Park Jin-pyo
Cast: Jeon Do-youn ("Untold Scandal") & Hwang Jung-min
RunTime: 2 hrs 3 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Festive Films
Rating: M18 (Scene of Intimacy)
Official Website: www.festivefilms.com/youaremysunshine

Opening Day: 27 April 2006


Based on a true story, "You Are My Sunshine" tells the moving love story between a bachelor (Hwang Jung-min) and a good-time gal named Eun-ha (Jeon Do-youn). They get married. However, one day, tests show that Eun-ha is infected with HIV.

Movie Review:

The spectre of AIDS holds much gravitas over the movies gritty and raw romance. It’s an obvious symbolism of the ‘death do us part’ aspect of the marriage vows that they take. It also provides a means for director; Jin-Pyo Park’s to instill relevant social messages into the film, just as he did with his gutsy introductory feature, Too Young to Live, which was about a pair of septuagenarian lovers. This time round, he takes on the largely taboo topic of AIDS and prostitution in his stride, he tackles these issues while never losing sight of the film’s purpose.

Taking home 2 awards at the 26th Korean Blue Dragon Awards (Best Actor for Hwang and Best Director for Park), the film’s strength is rightfully in its performances. An underlying sense of self-loathing nuances Jeon’s heartbreaking portrayal of a desperate woman who hides her agony behind her playful eyes and cheerful exterior. She seeks solace in the cold comfort of the first man to ever treat her right and her complex façade is broken through by the simple affections of Seok-joong.

Hwang’s character transitions both physically and emotionally, from a lonely farmer into a hardened and resolute man with a purpose. He is devastating in his conviction to the role as a naïve but kindly lug that devotes his life to his wife.

The movie completely belongs to the 2 leads. Genuinely funny scenes stem from Seok-joong’s interactions with his cow and friends while he woos Eun-ha. The endearing courtship rituals were whimsical in their executions, and while the beginning could have been the start of their decline in the romance, it teases us into hoping for an unrealisable ‘happily ever after’ ending.

While taking a formulaic approach to the genre, the director infuses his own edginess to the banality of the Korean melodrama by giving the couple a happy ending quickly by throwing in obstacles that are initially intrinsic, then creating a hopeless and desperate situation for both the leads. The film takes a sharp turn when it reaches the halfway mark as a contrasting shift in emotions and haunting music lacquers the emotional turmoil that both characters endure together and alone. Instead of referring to the film as a tale of two halves, it should also be seen as a magnification of the love shared between them even when they are apart.

Seok-joong’s mother (Mun-hee Na), the initially disapproving matriarch becomes the sole proponent of her son’s bleak and fleeting hopes of leading the life he wants with Eun-ha. The supporting characters seem as real as they possibly can be, by becoming an unaffected reflection of the romance between Seok-joong and Eun-ha.

Aside from a rather contrived piece of foreshadowing in the middle of the film, it hardly veers into hokey and bathetic displays of affection of the two leads, whose on-screen chemistry carries a huge responsibility in the film’s success. It’s no wonder that the film starts to meander slightly in the later parts of the film when Seok-joong and Eun-ha are left to their own respective devices.

The very idea of unconditional love against all odds is a daunting and unrealistic prospect by any means, perhaps even too indulgent to be taken seriously. The oneiric notion of idyllic everlasting love is put to the test when the awful truth and the characters’ past and present indiscretions are revealed. The dichotomy of the simple-minded and complicated lovers coupled with their innocent and seedy pasts does not go amiss. However, incompatible they seem on paper, the bare bones of their relationship is that they are 2 lonely souls finding what they needed in each other.

The title and famed ballad, You Are My Sunshine (originated by Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell) has never been more true than in this movie. It’s a shining example of Korean melodrama done right. In its finale, the film shows that true love is indeed simple. It’s just a matter of committing to it.

Movie Rating:

(Tugs relentlessly at your heartstrings, a real gem in an overdone and predictable genre)

Review by Justin Deimen










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