I just caught a very serious disease.
And I think it’s gonna last for quite a bit.
If you think it’s nothing, try thinking about one man all night.
Serious, no joke.
I don’t even know if I really did sleep.
I just know that I tossed, turned and rolled around on bed, with him in mind.
SERIOUS F***ING SHIT!
What did you do to me, HA JUNG WOO?!!!!
Okay, I’ll leave that to a later post (I don’t even know if can even muster enough words to write one cos I don’t even know how to describe what I’m feeling right now!@!@!). I’ll get to the point – Never Forever.
Never Forever is a 2007 indie-flic made by Korean filmmaker/director Gina Kim (okay I have no idea who she was before I watched the movie, but NOW I know) which revolves around the dilemma, conflict and desperation suffered by an ordinary urban housewife striving to get pregnant. It is a film which explores the turmoil that a lot of women suffer and who can only crave and yearn to break free in silence. A film of reality which some of us might not know of, or possibly know of, but cannot do anything to help.
Sophie Lee (played by the wonderful Vera Farmiga) has the world in her hands. She’s married to a successful and big-shot lawyer (who loves her with all his heart). Lives in luxury. And has nothing to worry about. Or it seems. The ONE thing missing in the picture, her failure to get pregnant. Or to be more specific, her husband Andrew’s failure to get her pregnant. Imagine the pain and suffering having to see your loved one drown in misery of not being able to make a child (Andrew’s sperms are accordingly not strong and healthy enough for them to conceive a baby). Coming from a Korean family (as we all know from watching Korean dramas), not being able to conceive is a big BIG NO. You are considered incompetent and unqualified to be the the daughter of the family whose duty is to bear a child and prolong the bloodline. As such, Sophie’s pressure mounts day by day. Andrew nonchalantly dismisses their chances of having a baby whilst her mother-in-law continues to hope and pray to God for the baby that will not likely come. Sophie is desperate and torn. She juggles between wanting to make Andrew (and his entire family) happy and the distraught that this baby will never come. She needs to find a solution.
And a solution does come.
By way of another man. (HAJUNGWOO!!!!! <333 I just can’t help it :P)
Ha Jung Woo’s character Kim Ji Ha is a Korean illegal immigrant who is striving hard to stay put in America. His sole intention is to earn enough money to bring his girlfriend over and to live happily ever after right after when they settle down together. Sophie encounters Ji Ha during a short trip to the sperm clinic and decides to take the biggest bet of her life. She follows him. Tails him back to his apartment. And offers him a job. A job that he cannot refuse. A 300 dollar-per-session (romp) and an additional 30,000 dollar pay in return if she gets pregnant. Ji Ha accepts the offer. And they begin on a journey of sexual intercourse which eventually leads to something more. Something deeper and something more passionate than what they can never possibly expect. Something which will drive Sophie to discover what she wants for once.
I’ve seen quite a number of similar-themed films. Films revolving around lonely (married women) who end up going out to find happiness and all that..etc.. and end up destroying the trust of the ones that they love and whatnot later on (when everything’s out of can). But Never Forever was different. It was special, at least to me. It didn’t have the makings of a sexual-oriented affair film, it didn’t have glossy or overwrought conversations. It didn’t overdo the oh-how-much-I-want-you thingy. And most importantly, it didn’t touch on racial or inter-marriage issues. Instead, it approached love and second chance in life in a purely simplistic (but darker) approach.
It had a unique and intriguing charm and beauty that transcended norms and expectations of what we call RIGHT and WRONG. It explored love and passion with shades of guilt and remorse. It paraded along the desperation of a lonely woman who wanted to be happy for once. And it made me feel that altho the world has its eyes on you, in the end what matters, is you yourself.
What made Never Forever such a beautiful film for me was the quietness and serene undercurrent throughout. It reminded me of the feeling that I experienced while watching Alone In Love. The stillness in the scenes, void of dazzling or eye-catching phrases. The silent thoughts of the characters. Their expressions which were done without having to say a lot. Everything shown in what was not said instead of said. I do not think it is a perfect film (cos nothing is absolutely perfect in this world), but I do think that my after-viewing satisfaction and pleasure was elevated and heightened to a very high extent while watching the film.
Never Forever is a American-Korean joint collaboration. One would not expect a lot as such due to the cultural differences . But to be honest, I never really did feel a divide or a particular sense of Asian pride in that oh, yeah this white women’s doing this Asian guy..blah blah blah when watching the film. The racial issue did NOT even pop into my mind at all. It felt like I was watching a normal Hollywood indie flic. Of course, one would /may question the point of having to make Sophie a white woman or the other way round, make the third person an Asian or whatnot. Why? Why not just make a film with all white men and women, or with all Koreans in it? Wouldn’t it be sufficient to get the point and message across? That’s exactly what made me love the film more. Gina Kim was able to incorporate the concept of inter-racial marriage/relationship in the film and make it look like a normal film of love, passion, loyalty and guilt. There was no emphasis on racial divide, cultural differences, communication gaps whatsoever. In the end, it was all about a woman’s liberation (white or not). And it did not even matter how she eventually got it in the end.
Vera Farmiga was stellar in the role of Sophie. If not for her gripping performance as the dilemma-stricken housewife who also wanted a second chance in love, the film would not have been the film I had seen and loved. She made Sophie human but not in a detestable or resentful manner. She portrayed the guilt and remorse of falling in love with another man while still in love with her husband with so much conviction that it was just painful to watch. She made Sophie a character worth empathizing for and if you were in her shoes, you’d do exactly the same thing. It was the best performance I have seen from an actress playing such a character. She was cheating, and yet, it was the right thing to do in my eyes.
Ha Jung Woo was equally the man of his own in here. He isn’t your typical handsome or dashing Korean hunk. His hair almost always disheveled. He doesn’t even wear nice clothes in the film. You probably wouldn’t even look twice or recognize him on the street if he walked past you. But he gave a splendid and convincing performance as Ji Ha. From the Ji Ha who took up the job just to earn extra cash to the Ji Ha who couldn’t resist the force of passion and love he had for Sophie. It was such a lovely and beautiful transformation. He didn’t have much to say. Most of his scenes were silent and quiet, most if not all centering on him thinking about his odd and developing relationship with Sophie. And when he did have something to say, it was powerful, strong and voluminous.
(NOTE on Ha Jung Woo
I honestly cannot believe that he did not do many prominent films before he took on this role. I cannot even believe that he wasn’t discovered earlier. I’ve seen him in several projects over the past 2-3 years (I watched H.I.T, The Chaser and Fox Family) and while I thought he was a good actor, he just didn’t catch my eye. I was obviously SO WRONG. SO WRONG for the past 3 years. This man is a genius actor. G-E-N-I-U-S. How could I possibly have overlooked his charisma and talent back then? How could I not have noticed this man of such overwhelming talent.?! HOW COULD I?!!! I don’t know, maybe I was still young. But better late than never, now I know the wrath of falling for this man, cos I’m not having enough sleep?!!!! $%$@@#$@$#@$#@$@)
Look at the picture above. If one does not see sizzles of chemistry, I will EAT myself. Vera and Ha Jung Woo had amazing chemistry together in the film. WORD. It’s the most brilliant and amazing element in the film which literally made me tummy flutter non-stop whenever they had a scene together. They just clicked from the get-go. The language barrier was almost non-existent. They just devoured each other and savoured every single moment they had with each other. The sensuality and intimacy they shared was less than racy but poignant and no less moving.
Ha Jung Woo‘s English was passable (to me at least, English is my second language as well) but did not in any way hamper his performance as Ji Ha. His interactions with Sophie were equivalent to us seeing a normal couple interact (with no communication gaps or what not), and YET… their scenes together were just beautiful. So beautiful that you could just feel your heart thump harder whenever Ji Ha looked at Sophie with his soft and calming gaze. So beautiful in a sense that you’d want more of them together and not feel sorry at all together towards Sophie’s estranged husband. So beautiful that you’d want Sophie to just drop everything and rush to Ji Ha the next minute. I know it’s all wrong, in the moral sense of the word that is. But it’s just something one can’t help when watching the film. Something that one cannot explain.
Not to give anything away about the ending, but I can say it was appropriate for what the film was aiming for. I loved how it closed with us having to interpret what went on with Sophie’s life after the revelation. And I liked that it didn’t go towards the drastic or happily ever after route. It’s one of the rarest of circumstances when watching something that I didn’t need much of an explanation on what happened to the characters next and so forth. Everything was left hanging in a sense but yet I did not feel dissatisfied in any way. It was good enough for me.
If I had to rate Never Forever in a scale of 10 in its genre, I’d give it an 8.5. The film had what a lot of films of the same genre lacked – emotional connection done right. Forbidden romance done right. And sexual/sensual emphasis done right (gosh, for once!). If the film had been longer, I’m sure it would have gone into overdone histrionics of Sophie indulging in self-destruction. And if it was shorter, we’d be complaining for the lack of the already so eye-catching intensity of Sophie and Ji-Ha. Overall, there wasn’t too much or too little of it in 2 hours and everything just fit perfectly into the time-span.
Never Forever.. Never Forever. I guess the film title explains it all. Nothing is forever? Even love?
One may not have a second chance in love after marriage. But then? Who are we to say?