By Lee Hyo-won
Would you give love a second chance? In his fifth feature "Season of Good Rain
", melodrama maestro Heo Jin-ho
says "yes", orchestrating another romance that seeps into the viewers' hearts with a graceful andante tempo.
Unlike his previous works like "One Fine Spring Day
", there is no tragic twist or untimely heartbreak. Yet, Heo still manages to bring weight and girth to a story that is rife with nostalgia and the uneasy feeling of having butterflies in the stomach.
This South Korea-China co-production brings together Korean heartthrob Jung Woo-sung
and Chinese actress-model Gao Yuanyuan
, who have chemistry as another memorable couple in a "Heo-marked" romance. Sometimes their performances stumble through the desperate mix of English, Korean and Chinese, but the film succeeds in translating onto screen messages that transcend the spoken word. This is partly due to the fact that, like Heo's other films, the dialogue is concise and used sparingly and very little gets lost in the subtitles.
Dong-ha (Jeong), an aspiring architect working for a construction company, arrives in Chengdu, China, on a business trip. He runs into his college sweetheart May (Gao), whom he lost touch with after sharing a brief romance in the United States. Their chance encounter is like "a good rain that knows when to come", inspired by the words of Chinese poet Du Fu.
The two cannot help smiling as old memories tide in, but are surprised to learn that their recollections do not match up. May denies their ever having kissed, or that Dong-ha taught her how to ride a bike.
Amid the backdrop of Chengdu, the two nevertheless relive the heart fluttering experience of a first date, leaning over exotic local dishes and waltzing through streetlamp-lit streets. But now in their 30s, both wiser and more prudent, they are reluctant to let go of certain inhibitions.
In the spur of the moment however Dong-ha, who is more certain, though not less cautious, of the rekindled affair, prolongs his sojourn, and asks May for a much-delayed real date.
Heo shows the story rather than tells it. Emotions waver and brim in between the lines and through fleeting glances. Yet, he keeps the camera at a steady distance and burns off sentimentality to reveal a purer romanticism that brings tender, lyrical impulses.
As with all of Heo's films, everything is carefully measured and proceeds with meticulous care - nothing goes amiss within the frame. The director sets an atmospheric sense of time and space, but with an organic, seamless subtlety that smoothes away any hint of a calculated effort.
The movie is indeed like a well-timed pleasant rain - a nourishing spring shower for Korea's underdeveloped romance genre, demonstrating how warm love stories need not necessarily resort to tragedy or comedy to engage the viewer.
The film was originally part of the omnibus project "Chengdu I Love You", as homage to the Sichuan Province city that was hit by a devastating earthquake in May last year. It premiered at the Venice Film Festival this year, and was developed into a full feature. The reason for this is not surprising, since the movie has a strong commercial appeal that would not ostracize arthouse cinema buffs.
The movie will be released Oct. 8 simultaneously in Korea, China and Japan. Co-produced by Korea's Pancinema Corp. and China's Zonbo Media.