Would you tell me “you can’t sit with us” if I would confess to you that it’s my first time to see Il Mare? Yes, I’m talking about that popular movie of Jun Ji-hyun that even a K-Drama novice had probably watched already. I’ve heard and read a lot of positive things about this film so I decided to finally give it a go. Plus, I really want K-Movie Corner’s opening salvo for 2018 to be a good one, and I think anything with Jun Ji-hyun in it will always be a perfect choice. So here it is, chingus!
Il Mare is a romantic fantasy drama released in 2000 with Jun Ji-hyun and Lee Jung-jae as leads. Heol, I suddenly realized that in just over two years’ time, the movie will be two decades old! Daebak. Though it wasn’t a huge commercial success in Korea upon its release, it still has developed a loyal following and is considered a Korean film classic.
Fun fact: Il Mare means “The Sea” in Italian.
The movie tells the story of a man and a woman who are able to communicate with each other through a mysterious mailbox despite living in two different timelines. It begins with Eun-joo (Jun Ji-hyun) leaving a Christmas card in the mailbox for the next tenant of the house by the sea called “Il Mare” as she moves out. She asks the next tenant to forward to her new address her letters. It seems to be pretty normal at first until Sung-hyun (Lee Jung-jae), the one who received Eun-joo’s Christmas card and also the first tenant of Il Mare, notices that the date written on it is 1999 when it’s only 1997. Though they are both skeptical at first, they are able to later on accept the unbelievable situation they are in and find themselves enjoying their conversations from the letters they send through the mailbox. To save you from any further spoiler, the mailbox helps Eun-joo save Sung-hyun from his untimely death that she somehow caused in the first place.
Fun fact: In 2006, Warner Brothers remade Il Mare into the American romantic drama The Lake House starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. It’s plot is also used in the 2015 Kannada movie Minchagi Nee Baralu. In the Philippines, the 2006 movie Moments of Love starring Dingdong Dantes, Iza Calzado, and Karylle shares the same time-travel romance theme, but instead of a mailbox, the leads are communicating through a telephone. In Japan, the same theme can be seen in the highly acclaimed animated movie Kimi no Na wa (Your Name).
I like how the movie interestingly marry romance and fantasy in its story, which I think is its main charm and flaw at the same time. Charm because it makes the movie unique. The time curve element made the typical love story between two ordinary people extraordinary. Flaw because it doesn’t make any sense at all. I mean, how on Earth will that kind of situation happen? Second is that it was never explained in the movie how the mailbox became some kind of a time portal that enabled Eun-joo and Sung-hyun to communicate with each other. But this is a romantic fantasy drama and not a science fiction, isn’t it?
In the acting department, both Jun Ji-hyun and Lee Jung-jae delivered okay performances. Okay meaning they both displayed decent acting prowess but not very memorable. Well, it’s probably because the movie showcased mostly tranquil scenes. With Jun Ji-hyun, I would just like to point out a scene where it seems to me that her facial expressions were lacking. It is when Sung-hyun got hit by a speeding car while he was on his way to fulfill Eun-joo’s request for him to intervene in the past and convince her fiancé not to leave so that they would not have to break up in the future. I mean, somebody got hit by a car right in front of her very eyes, but she just looked at him with an emotionless face. Nevertheless, I would still give Jun Ji-hyun a thumbs up for her portrayal here given the fact that she was only around 19 years old when she filmed this movie. Her chemistry with Lee Jung-jae is also just okay. Probably because they only shared limited scenes together? But those few, brief scenes between them, like when Sung-hyun tried to approach Eun-joo at the train station but she just shrugged him off, are the ones that left tiny dents in my heart.
Fun fact: Lee Jung-jae and Jun Ji-hyun also starred together in the movies The Thieves (2012) and Assassination (2015).
Final verdict: Il Mare’s story is interesting enough to make its flaws forgivable. It’s a nice treat to hopeless romantics for it once again proved that love is magic. 4/5
~All credits for the GIF/videos/stills used in this review go to Blue Cinema, Dream Venture Capital, Sidus Pictures, UniKorea Picture, and Paramount Pictures.