Il Mare is the original film of the American remake The Lake House. I loved the American version of this film, or at least I did the last time I viewed it. I went back and watched the trailer to confirm these sentiments and felt chills from that little preview. I remember that Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock gave stellar performances, and I was surprised and amazed at the entire story. I cried and felt happy when the romance worked out the way I imagined.
Perhaps part of my dissatisfaction with the original Korean film Il Mare stems from the fact that I had already seen that remake. The initial surprise and amazement of a unique story was spoiled by the fact that I knew what was going to happen. For those who have yet to see either film, I suggest watching this one first. It will make it easier to gage which one you like more.
Now, don't get me wrong with the lower rating. There was nothing wrong with this film, but it's not one I will want to watch repeatedly. This is quite different for me since the other Korean films I loved, My Sassy Girl and Windstruck, I have already watched four times since I wrote my original reviews. On a bit of a side note, I have to say that there are a ton of similarities between those two films! There were so many intricate details that connected the movies, and even Cyborg She. Part of me wants to write a whole different review in which I compare those subtleties, but alas, that is for another day.
Getting back on track, my disappointment not only stems from the fact that I had seen the film before. Actually, I could tell that the film was not written and directed by Jae-young Kwak, who is simply an amazing storyteller and director! Even the compelling acting skills of Gianna Jun could not make me enjoy the film more. Part of what endears this Korean actress to me are the roles she has played in Kwak's screenplays. Her acting in Il Mare felt a little boring and forced compared to her dynamic roles in the other films I saw.
In fact, the most compelling aspect about this movie were the actors. Even though their performances felt a little flat, the romance between Han Sung-hyun (played by Jung-Jae Lee) and Kim Eun-ju (played by Gianna Jun) felt natural. Their relationship was destined to be despite the unique circumstances under which they met. In fact, neither one seemed to question the mystical elements of the mailbox but instead allowed a friendship to develop during a tumultuous and lonely period in both their lives.
Some disappointments in this film included the lack of memorable music and the overly indulgent slow periods. It wasn't a long film, but I felt like I waited forever for something to happen. These silent moments would have been more appreciated as a stylistic twist to the film if there were less of them. Also, without an amazing soundtrack, many of the emotions that the director tried to invoke in the audience fell flat, which was especially disappointing at the end of the movie during the climax I had been waiting for. Instead, it came off pedantic. Some important details to the film were also not highlighted enough for my tastes, such as Il Mare itself, the little house by the sea. I felt like the house in the American remake was better crafted with an explicit background story that did not leave the viewer wondering what was so special about the building other than its mailbox.
Despite my disappointments, the film did have some amazing scenic shots of the house by the sea. The house itself looked to be such a lonely place when there was no tide. It was a beautiful location to stage a romance. And of course there was Cola, the adorable dog that happened to look like an overly hairy rat. I loved that dog, and I really thought it was cute how Cola connected the two people despite their different time periods.
Overall, there were some genuinely sweet moments that stood out despite the movie's failings, such as the scenes near the mailbox, which were very well-crafted. I especially liked the situations surrounding the gifts that the characters gave each other.
Unfortunately, until I watch The Lakehouse again, I won't truly know which one I enjoyed more. Currently, at least, the American remake stands out as a better paced and compelling story with similar situations for the main stars.
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Adrianna Simone (Adrianna)
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Il Mare is a 2000 South Korean film starring Jun Ji-hyun (Gianna Jun) and Lee Jung-jae. The title, Il Mare, means "The Sea" in Italian, and is the name of the seaside house which is the setting of the story. The Korean title, Siworae is the Korean pronunciation of Chinese characters "時越愛," which means "time-transcending love." The two protagonists both live there two years apart in time but are able to communicate through a mysterious post box.