A Korean arthouse film directed by Kim Ki-Duk.
Valentine's Day...I guess I'll have to post a movie review about love. Much as I hate romantic comedies-dramas (what man doesn't?), I'm not an idiot; I know there are a number of romantic dramas that aren't full of cliché and stereotypical characters. The problem is finding the right one to review. (This is only my second review for a PURE romantic theme flick so don't heckle me; I avoided a romantic comedy) I chose "April Snow" because it is one I did like and even with its similarities to "Random Hearts" (with Harrison Ford); I found it to be a very good film directed by Jin Ho-hur. I've reviewed a subversive love story before; "Green Chair", a surreal love story "Oasis" and the teen romance "My Sassy Girl", time to tackle the infidelity theme. I rarely review a pure love story so I will avoid the stereotypical Korean love stories with an ailing woman such as "A Moment to Remember". (Yea, I went there!)
April Snow is a story of a man and a woman who faces their spouses' accident and infidelity together and loses the balance on their lives. The two meet in the hallway in front of an operating room. As the two rush in upon hearing of the spouses' accident, they realize that the man's wife and the woman's husband had an affair together. They also realize that they share the same sadness. The two get lost in despair and confusion and anger but they unexpectedly start to fall in love and jump to the same affair as their spouses' did. They hesitate at this new emotion that may cause further heartache and pain.
April Snow is a film with a purpose. Instead of going through the usual road with cheating spouses and angry spouses; it goes to another direction. It successfully promotes going forward in spite of emotional pain and shows a unique ability to engage its audience with its simplicity. Why do I like "April Snow"? The film does have a few surprises and the way it is shot is quite beautiful. It offers a LOT of subtle details even for the most experienced movie watcher. Viewers may miss the moment the first time Insu and Seo-young hold hands and the very warm chemistry when they shared a cup of noodles unless they are very attentive. To the experienced watcher, it is highly noticeable that the two are slowly bonding and that they find comfort with each other’s company. The film offers a sense of irony that the two main characters are caught in the same lie and deceit their respective spouses have engaged in before.
The film is also emotionally driven. At first, Insu and Seo-Young are shown in denial and then they try to accept the fact of their spouses' betrayal. Seo-Young was decisive in playing the dutiful wife in taking care of her bed-ridden husband. As with Insu, he was very caring to his wife in the hospital. It is ONLY after Insu sat beside Seo-Young did things start to change, upon the discovery of their respective spouse’s infidelities, they found comfort from each other that will ultimately blossom into something else. It was to the director's credit that he managed to convey the needed emotions from the two leads. Guilt was especially expressed during their first getaway and the time Insu's father-in-law came by for a visit. What I found more interesting is that the guilt being expressed didn't feel like it was because of their own unfaithfulness but guilt that they didn't want to take advantage of the other's vulnerability and confusion. The subtle details are there, the simplicity in its execution is what made "April Snow" a very good film.
Refreshingly beautiful Son Ye-jin carries most of the film's weight with her excellent acting and her charisma (She also saved "Moment to Remember"). She plays her character with such incomparable depth and expresses raw emotion even when she isn't saying anything. Bae Yung-jun's acting may seem a bit stiff and wooden at times but women are sure to be swooned by his charisma. (I know a lot of my lady friends were just taken by the leading man)
Most of the film's strengths may come from its simplicity but its simplicity is also its main weakness. People who aren't paying attention may find that the premise should go further than the "hurt" feelings and the proceedings have a bit of a "sleepy" feel. Also, the spouses of Insu and Seo-young don't seem to be viable characters (They were in love, it just turned out that they were married) but only plot devices. I DON'T agree with cheating on your spouse for any reason, but I do agree in moving forward and moving on from the pain. The way to approach this film is to see the subtlety in its beauty.
Despite its faults, "April Snow" is a very good film that is worth watching. I liked the final act in the film, which asked a subtle question: Where do we go from here?
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! [4 stars]
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A Korean arthouse film directed by Kim Ki-Duk.
Korean Romantic Drama
Korean Horror-Erotic Thriller