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Nothing So Secret About 'Secret Love'

2010/04/01 Source

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By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

A young woman becomes romantically involved with identical twin brothers, and begins to doubt the rules of fortuity, chance and coincidence when it comes to love.

The premise seemed simple enough, with plenty of room to explore some classic themes. But confusion does not equal mystery. With its convoluted sequence of events and open-ended finale, Ryu Hoon-I's star-studded film, "Secret Love", feels more hollow than enigmatic. The movie tried to be hauntingly mysterious but ended up more like a messy, tangled up ball of yarn rather than a clever Rubik's cube.

Jin-wu (Yoo Ji-tae) falls into a coma just two months after getting married. His devastated wife (Yoon Jin-seo) does her best to take care of him, but it isn't easy; Yeon-i's already missing deadlines and neglecting her work, and she only has footage from their wedding video to keep her spirits up. Hope and faith gradually seem like alien concepts to her.

This is when Jin-ho, Jin-wu's twin brother, comes into the picture. As a marine biologist, he had also gotten into an accident while doing research abroad, and was unconscious for two months and unable to attend Jin-wu and Yeon-i's wedding. Yeon-i thus had never met Jin-ho, nor did she know that the two brothers were identical twins. She is shocked to see an exact replica of her husband when she goes to pick up Jin-ho at the airport.

Jin-ho begins to sympathize with Yeon-i, whom he refuses to address properly as "hyeongsunim", the correct title to call one's sister-in-law. Yeon-i, on the other hand, shuns Jin-ho coldly at first but slowly begins to accept his bold advances. At this point, it is difficult to be convinced of the so-called inevitable attraction. Jin-ho seems to just be taking sexual advantage of an emotionally unstable woman.

The film immediately invites comparison to "Addiction", which starred Lee Byung-hun as a man who is in love with his brother's wife. Jin-ho's resemblance with his brother in this story makes things quite convenient, since acquaintances who haven't been told about Jin-wu's condition assume they're the original married couple.

Here, the twist is that Yeon-i only starts to open up to Jin-ho when she suspects that it was him, and not her husband, who had saved her from a hiking accident several years ago. She tied the knot with her " hero " Jin-wu just two months after reuniting with him.

Unlike other love stories that proclaim that love is destiny, "Secret Love" questions the part fortuities play in matters of the heart.

Things, however, become complicated when Jin-wu miraculously wakes up from his coma. If having to live with a limp wasn't bad enough, Jin-wu learns that his wife had been fooling around with his brother.

In order to win back the love of his life, Jin-wu resorts to playing a game he and Jin-ho played as children and tests Yeon-i by pretending to be Jin-ho. At this point the melodrama sharply turns into a vengeance thriller, and a bad one at that, with some cheesy sound effects.

While Yoo and Yoon, both talented actors, give impressive performances, their characters act like puppets in a poorly staged play. As the brothers fight over Yeon-i, they scathingly touch upon shared identity crises twins often experience. Their manipulative role-switching game could have shed light on their deepest desires, but stops too short of providing any real character development.

Distributed by Cinergy. Now showing in theaters.

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