“Someday, I’ll meet someone from the future”
OK. I have been procrastinating about this post for nearly two years now. This is the Asian film that sums up everything I love about Asian cinema. When i first started this blog it was in that original list of films I wanted to talk about. But because of some personal resonance I have always put it off. A bit of me was merely worried I could not do it justice, that I couldn’t say in 500-1,000 words what I wanted to say. I now know that I will never be the greatest reviewer, but a handful of you keep coming back, so maybe I am doing something right. But most of me was scared because of the personal reasons, that this is the favourite film of my best friend, that this was a big part of what cemented our friendship. But she will tell me not to be stupid, and get on with it. So I will.
“My Sassy Girl” is the story of Kyun-woo (Cha Tae-hyun), a young man without much drive and focus in life. One night he comes across a girl (Jun Ji-Hyun, who remains nameless) obviously very drunk. He takes it upon himself to make sure she is OK, by booking them into a Korean Love Hotel. Things don’t turn out too well for him, but the girl tracks him down and they form a strange relationship.
Based on a true story that was published online, this film changes everything you know about asian women, cinematically at least. The girl is wild and unpredictable, she drinks and gets stupidly drunk, she treats her boyfriend with violent contempt at times, does crazy things. This is not your prim and proper Korean girl.
What makes this special is Jun’s performance. Even at her most bizarre, you get the sense that this is someone suffering pain. Something has happened to her, something you will not find out until the final act of the film. Despite her actions, you can’t help but love her. Just like Kyun-woo, you want to help her, to cure her of whatever it is that ails her. Don’t get me wrong though – Cha Tae-hyun plays his part as the subject of her odd behaviour, hitting comically bewildered, and obviously deeply caring for her at the same time.
And boy is the film funny. And sad. And heart-breaking. And inventive. Inserted into the narrative are a crazy potpourri of styles and genres. The girl wants to be a screenwriter, and we see 3 of her scripts performed – each one a twist on a common (mostly Asian) cinema trope, but each one gives you some insight into the girl. Yes, the film does eventually dip its toe in the waters of Korean Melodrama, but for me this is part of the charm, a canvas on which to paint the movie. Without that melodrama in the background – the whole first half of the film is frankly unexplainable.
This isn’t the first draft of this review. I could go on and on describing my favourite scenes. Some of them are just laugh out loud funny. Some are devastating. And some are just the most romantic gestures. You are a hard person indeed if Kyun-woo’s recital of the 10 rules for looking after her do not touch you. You are beyond hope if the delivery of a single rose at her piano recital doesn’t create at least a swell in your throat. And yes I am a guy.
It is so different from your normal love story. To start with the girl is so offbeat and cruel you wonder what attraction (other than the physical) she could possibly have. There is no kissing. There are no “I love you’s”. It’s about two people helping each other get through. He is helping her heal a broken heart, and she is helping him get focus in his life.
For me, the key is the quote from the film at the top of this post. Whilst the film does steer a little into science fiction (oh so briefly), this is just imagery. This movie is really talking about meeting someone, that someone, that right now you can’t be with. But in the future, that will be the person you will be with. And that gives me hope. Every day. Whatever obstacles exist now, can be overcome given time.
Dear reader, this film engages my heart on every level. The highest and most heartfelt of recommendations.