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Melodrama flick 'My Girl and I' less impressive than Japanese version

2005/12/21 Source

When watching the Japanese hit movie, "Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World," it's hard not to cry - sophisticated acting, a refined screenplay and a resonant theme combine to create a lasting impression. By contrast, when watching the Korean remake "My Girl and I," it's hard to cry.

Well, if you really want to cry watching the Korean version of the melodrama, it's probably safe to cry over the lower-than-expected quality of the movie itself, not because of some moving scenes that tug at your heartstrings.

"My Girl and I" features the well-known plot of an ill-fated couple. Su-ho (Cha Tae-hyun) is a plain high school boy, and Su-eun (Song Hye-kyo) is a bright and beautiful girl in the same school. For some unknown reason, Su-eun has a crush on the boy, and for equally mysterious reasons she rescues Su-ho in the sea (though he doesn't know who actually saved him).

In the process, Su-eun loses her pager. When she discloses the relationship with Su-ho at school, despite envy and disbelief from other classmates, she asks Su-ho to buy her a pager so that they can communicate with each other through voice messages - a secret communication channel since So-eun's parents are quite strict. The way the couple develops affection is bearable, helped by images of a beautiful seaside village and equally enchanting coastlines. Supporting characters like Su-ho's grandfather (Lee Soon-jae) jazz up the otherwise too simplified storyline.

But soft and cartoonish images that reflect Korean local features in Geojae Island are all there is to see. The movie's plot doesn't provide any surprise or meaningful twist that is comparable to the Japanese version by director Isao Yukisada which sold more than 10 million tickets.

In the second half of the movie, especially after Su-eun comes down with a fatal disease, the plot only just moves forward. Even when the story trudges along, the characters and their acting are not that convincing - all the more so if you already watched the Japanese version.

The biggest problem is director Jeong Yoon-soo's strategy to use a safe path only. He succeed in casting two of the country's top-rated actors, and when it comes to the rising female star Song Hye-kyo, this is her debut feature film.

Song's debut for the silver screen through this movie attracted much media attention, something that definitely boosted the profile of the film itself among the public. But the director relied too much on the two actors while failing to upgrade the story itself in comparison with the Japanese rendition.

Rather the Korean version is far inferior to the Japanese movie in every respect. The actors are less believable: Cha, who is 29 years old, plays a high school student, and Song's hospital scene is utterly unrealistic because her hair remains intact (in the Japanese version, the female character's hair is lost due to a terminal illness).

The pager is also problematic. In the opening scene, it is submerged in the sea and the camera shows where it is, as if it will be used in the plot again. But Su-eun's pager, the very item that bolsters their relationship, will be never used or discovered again in the film, leaving viewers scratching their heads. In a well-made melodrama, all the items linked to relationships are supposed to have some meanings, but in "My Girl and I," such romantic items are less utilized in a cinematic sense.

The bigger issue is the broader theme. In the original, the female character wants to pull off her dream - visiting Uluru in Australia, the sacred ground of Aboriginals or what she calls "the center of the world."

In the Korean version, there's no such "center of the world." Nor is there any memorable song that can be compared to Japanese singer Ken Hirai's "Hitomi Wo Tojite," which evokes powerful emotions at the end of the Japanese film.

In the post-preview news conference, both Cha and Song said they haven't watched the Japanese movie in order to focus on their roles and create their own style. They should have watched "Crying Out Love, in the Center of the World." It's not too late. If they watch the Japanese version now, they will definitely cry a lot - for unromantic reasons.

By Yang Sung-jin

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