I have had this movie waiting to be watched for about a year now. I guess I have just not been in the mood for such an obvious Korean Terminal Beauty film for a while, and it always keeps slipping down the to-watch list.
A remake of the Japanese “Crying Out Love, in the Centre of the World” (a Novel, Manga, Film and TV series), the film makes things quite clear about the eventual resolution – this is a story about a man, Soo-ho (Cha Tae-hyun)remembering his first love, Soo-eun (Song Hye-kyo)who died young.
On the face of it, “My Girl and I” has all the components as a movie that would especially appeal to me. Cha Tae-hyun is an actor I enjoy in most of his appearances, and having Kwak Jae-young on scripting duties is always a treat, even when the film itself may fail as a whole.
Song Hye-kyo is terribly pretty (shallow of me I know, but a fact is a fact), and I totally bought into her character – my biggest surprise is that she has not done much movie work at all. Cha Tae-hyun brings a pretty understated performance on the whole, which works as his character is supposed to be ordinary. But the once or twice he is asked to fully emote, he does bring his top game to the table.
Death as a theme permeates the whole movie. Apart from the obvious death of Soo-eun, Soo-ho lost his Father young, and his Grandfather is an Undertaker. The Grandfather has also lost his wife, and there is a lovely scene where he is able to connect to his own first love by preparing her funeral. Yet, surprisingly, the film never feels mawkish or maudlin.
And maybe, just maybe this is the problem I had with the film. Death and loss are discussed so much within the film, and the actual death happens so late on, that I was surprisingly unaffected by the emotion. I was shocked at my own lack of emotional reaction. I can’t put my finger on as to why this might be. Maybe I am growing old and hardened.
I wonder if the structure and relative brevity of the film work against it. We start with a man who is obviously still in pain, and therefore we don’t follow down the journey in a standard way to understand his grief. We never really get under the skin of why these two mean so much to each other. The two only really talk to each other by the use of messages (yet another example in Korean cinema of people using technology as a method of sharing thoughts and feelings). Only when the reality of her disease really hits home do we the audience get an understanding of what these two mean to each other. Unfortunately, this only happens 20 minutes from the conclusion.
There is an awful lot to be admired. The coastal Korean setting is splendid, evoking a real sense of reality. The final scene showing Soo-eun’s everlasting gift to Soo-ho is very touching. Even though the actors are obviously not the 18 year olds they are portraying, you believe in their lives, especially Soo-ho’s gang of friends, who frankly we should have spent a lot more time with.
And that is the real issue with the film. It is far too brief, rarely exploring the world in which it is set. We never really get under the skin of these characters, and never get time to understand Soo-ho’s loss and how he has been affected in the intervening 10 years.
On the surface of it this is a pretty good film, but you will find other films on this list that will scratch your Terminal Beauty itch far more satisfyingly.
Mildly (but not begrudgingly) recommended.