By Lee Hyo-won
Romanic poet Won Tae-yeon
makes his directorial debut with a classic romance, "More Than Blue
". Though featuring typical elements of the South Korean melodrama, "Blue" does not attempt to squeeze out tears from viewers. Rather, the director crafts a film that is poetically sparse, and also witty and hilarious as much as it is heartbreaking.
Hallyu star kwon Sang-woo
, the heartbreaker from the tearjerker TV soap "Stairway to Heaven
", plays the tragic male protagonist "K", yet another faithful one-woman man involved in a pitiful love triangle. To top it all off, he has cancer. With the little time he has left to live, he plays Cupid to marry off the woman he loves, "Cream" (Lee Bo-young
), to an eligible bachelor, Ju-hwan (Lee Beom-soo
), so he can rest in peace.
"Blue" however feels more classic than cliched and the undying fidelity of the love-struck characters nostalgically evokes old romances. The talented actors also bring freshness to their parts, making them very believable and worthy of every ounce of one's empathy.
The story begins in high school. Cream appears before K out of the blue, hypnotizing him in a fashion reminiscent of Gwenyth Paltrow's over-the-water fountain-kiss in "The Great Expectations". (One drawback is that the 32-year-old's posing as a high school student, despite his flawless skin, is rather awkward, particularly since many moviegoers may remember the exquisite rendition of a teenaged Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button").
The two orphans become quick soul mates. K's parents had abandoned him, but left him lots of money, while Cream lost her entire family in a car accident. Cream moves into K's house and they live together like brother and sister, father and daughter and at times husband and wife _ though the more delicate K nurses his unrequited love for Cream and patiently watches her switch from one boyfriend to another.
K and Cream give each other strange names, which they use as pseudonyms when they grow up to become a radio producer and songwriter, respectively. The two know everything about each other, but K keeps his malignant cancer secret, for he knows that Cream's biggest fear is to be left alone.
So instead, he obliquely confesses his love everyday, through tacky lyrics like "in my next life I want to be born as a ring, diary or bed so you can buy me and I can stay by your side". (The director himself wrote lyrics for sentimental pop songs by ballad-crooners like Shin Seung-hoon). But Kwon wins the audience's heart by bringing a certain tenderness to his character _ suggesting a maturation in his acting, a palpable break away from his previous roles as a romantic tough guy. K is a rare male protagonist in Korean fiction that is a pure embodiment of love, someone that can die for _ or because of _ love even if it weren't for his terminal disease.
He urges Cream to marry a healthy, goodhearted man. Even though his heart breaks when she announces that she is in love with a well to do doctor, he proceeds to do a background check on Ju-hwan and is happy to have found Mr. Perfect. Meanwhile, Ju-hwan breaks up with his fiancee (Jung Ae-yun
) to marry Cream.
One of the movie's strengths is that it contextualizes the dramatic romance within a convincing reality, and in addition to having the women wear the pants (the director told The Korea Times that it's because he himself is a "doting husband"), funnyman Lee Han-wi
keeps things light as a kowtowing celebrity manager. Singer Lee Seung-chul
also makes a memorable appearance, particularly as he tries to sport an unctuous, post-Captain Jack Sparrow-Johnny Depp-look.
As expected of a movie by a poet, it teems with imagery of time hanging still in the air and things are left simple. Even though the film's Korean title "A Story Sadder Than Sadness" is perhaps an overstatement, it allows the viewer to peruse not so much the abstract meaning of love but what it means to be in love and to care for someone.
In theaters March 11. 105 minutes. 15 and over. Distributed by Showbox/Mediaplex.