Movie Review: Love, Lies (2015)

It’s been a while since the last movie day here on Ahjummamshies. And since I’m currently on my post-drama slump, I decided to pick up a film that has long been on my watchlist.

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Love, Lies instantly piqued my interest with its trailer and synopsis alone. They incorporated themes that I personally like: music, period setting, and a female-dominated storyline. I came with high expectation and fortunately, it delivered.

Love Lies Korean movie gisaeng

To understand Love, Lies’ hero to villain plot, we should look closely at the central character, Jung So-yool’s development from the start of the movie to her downfall. Jung So-yool is a gisaeng in one of the last remaining gwonbeon (an institution that trains gisaeng) in Japanese-occupied Korea. She’s the daughter of a master singer and she was expected to be as good as her mother. Good thing she has an innate talent in performing classical songs.

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The exposition was a bit dull but the movie picked up the right pace when So-yool’s hidden insecurities slowly came to the surface; like a song that you have to wait for the chorus to fully appreciate. Her downfall could easily be blamed for the betrayal of the love of her life Kim Yoon-woo and her best friend Seo Yeon-hee but I saw it coming way before Yeon-hee and Yoon-woo got involved.

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During the start of the movie, So-yool was introduced as this perfect character blessed with talent, beauty, and charm. But it also hinted some of So-yool’s flaws. She always followed the dream imposed on her by her mother. She was raised with this idea that their “art” was only for those with a noble mind and taste. She has this illusion that getting attention was her birthright. It was the opposite of how Yeon-hee was brought up. It also contradicts the beliefs of Kim Yoon-woo.

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Yoon-woo’s vision of making a song for the people of Joseon was lost to So-yool. That scene was a clear indication that their relationship would never gonna work out. Despite this obvious difference, they waged forward to their relationship. So when Seo Yeon-hee came into the picture, Yoon-woo was easily swayed. Did that justify Yoon-woo and Yeon-hee’s affair? No. But was the affair a good reason for So-yool’s revenge? Absolutely no.

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The betrayal of Yoon-woo and Yeon-hee was just the trigger that finally shattered So-yool’s weak perfect girl façade. She lost Yoon-woo because they never shared the same vision for the future, to begin with. She lost Yeon-hee because of her greed and insecurity. As Yeon-hee pointed out, she has no one else to blame but herself. She let greed and jealousy took control of her mind and heart; failing to see how great she was on her own.

The build-up to her downfall was amazingly told. They successfully showed that So-yool was a character crafted to either hate or pity. It was pure hatred for me in the end and this should be taken as a compliment. Thanks to the effective performances of Han Hyo-joo, Chun Woo-hee, and Yoo Yeon-seok.

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Speaking of highlight performances, the rain scene did it for me. It wasn’t because I’m a pluviophile through and through but I looked at that sequence as the turning point of the movie. In that scene, Yoon-woo was explaining to Yeon-hee why he believed music should be for everyone. Yeon-hee immediately understood where he was coming from. It was the opposite of how So-yool reacted earlier in the film. A clear point where Yoon-woo and Yeon-hee’s path separated from So-yool’s. Their scene was the perfect prologue to So-yool’s breakdown under the rain. Han Hyo-joo has a lot of shining moments in the movie but that rain scene was definitely my favorite.

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Another favorite scene was Yeon-hee’s death and the subsequent confrontation between Yoon-woo and So-yool. Han Hyo-joo delivered her lines with the right convictions for her character and Chun Won-hee answered with equal intensity. I kind of felt though that Chu Won-hee depended on her performance to Han Hyo-joo’s. She gave leveled response to emotions Hyo-joo would give in a certain scene. I sometimes feel that she was always afraid of overshadowing her co-star. Nonetheless, the two actresses complemented each other’s acting in every scene.

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Yoo Yeon-seok, as expected, also did a great job for his role. He could speak through his facial expressions alone and could convey every emotion without uttering a word. There was no line during the scene where So-yool and Yeon-hee were singing on stage but his face showed his character’s change of heart.

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As a whole, some might brushed-off Love, Lies as another scorned woman’s tale but for me, it was more than that. Yes, the story has been told before and the narration could have been better. But the actors’ performances made the story engaging as if it was the first time it was told. The music was also perfectly intertwined in the story. I agree with what some of the reviews said, this movie was a feast for the eyes and ears.

The 1940s backdrop was also the perfect setting for the movie’s underlying theme of holding on to a bygone era and refusing the forthcoming change.

Post-credit thoughts:

-I’m not sure why they cast Park Sung-woong when there wasn’t even one scene where he had to use his acting skills. His character was stoic for the whole movie. It was disappointing because we all know Park Sung-woong could bring unique colors to his roles.

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-They could have used an actual old actress on the ending scene instead of Han Hyo-joo with prosthetic.

– The costumes and the styling were all breathtaking.

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– Movie’s lesson: just don’t trust a man’s words tbh.

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