Movie Review: Unforgettable (2016)

I will never be able to listen to Dust in the Wind by Kansas the same way again after watching this movie.

Unforgettable starts in a way that’s very typical of first-love-themed Korean movies. The movie opens with a radio DJ receiving a letter from someone with a very familiar name – Soo-ok. As he reads the letter on air, he realizes that the letter is from the same Soo-ok he knew. Unbeknownst to him, his friends are also listening to his show and from there, they take a trip down memory lane – specifically to the summer of 1991.

We meet five youths with seemingly different personalities who grew up in a small island town. We are promptly introduced to our main storyteller, the silent type Beom-sil (Do Kyung-soo) and to his friends, the comic type Gae-duk (Lee David), the frank type Gil-ja (Joo Da-young), the athlete type San-dol (Yeon Joon-seok), and the naïve type Soo-ok (Kim So-hyun). All of them are archetypes we usually see in a youth movie. Same goes with the first half of the movie. It is filled with the summer squad’s adventures and misadventures, secret and not-so-secret crushes, and idealistic conversations while enjoying the sea breeze.

What I like about this part of the movie is its nostalgia-driven narrative. Their ‘typical’ because it’s what common people experience too. They want the audience to remember their own memorable summer vacations spent with friends. And I thought all along that this is what the movie is aiming for. But as the second half starts, the real theme of the movie finally creeps out on the forefront.

I know for a fact that this movie is a coming-of-age film but I didn’t expect it to use the “major character death” card to show how our summer squad would grow from typical teenagers to adults. I didn’t notice any signs, hints, or foreshadowing of any kind that led to Soo-ok’s decision after she discovered the truth about her condition. She’s bubbly, optimist, and innocent just like any other Korean movie female leads. The scene where she jumped off into the sea left me in shock but I think it lacks the impact it’s aiming for.

The scenes that followed make up for it, however. Her death was used to test the shaky relationship of the rest of the Unforgettable squad. Beom-sil, of course, took it the hardest since Soo-ok is her first love and he witnessed firsthand what triggered Soo-ok to do that decision. The rest of her friends felt guilt for losing her without saying their apologies.

I believe the movie is at its best during the mourning scene up to the funeral scene. These island kids learned with sloppy hands how to do mourning rituals. Something that they’ve never done before nor takes seriously. It’s their wake-up call that they’re not invincible and that they don’t have infinite time to do the things they want and say the truths from their heart. The funeral scene is when the movie fully tugged my emotional strings. I lost it and bawled with them as they bid farewell to their friend and their youths as well.

On the whole, the movie isn’t perfect. It is unpolished for the most part but it is nonetheless a good movie to watch if you’re looking for a nostalgic-filled story and if you badly needed a good cry. Because that’s what Unforgettable will surely give you. 

Post-credits Afterthoughts

-The casting for their adult version is goooood. Especially with Lee Beom-soo as adult David Lee. The resemblance is uncanny. And of course, special credit also goes to the rest of the adult cast: Park Yong-woo, Park Hae-joon, and Kim Ji-ho.

-Park Jung-min is a delightful addition to this movie. I’ll really recommend watching his movie with Kim Go-eun, Sunset in My Hometown.

-The music is nicely interwoven in this film. Listen to Kim So-hyun’s version of the classic song, Violet Fragnance:

-These quotes:

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