2 movies. A decade apart, an ocean far wide apart.
My dramas may have been grating on my nerves lately (AGD, Ghost and Big all of them, I can’t even!), but I’m fortunate to have enough stock of downloaded movies to watch when I’m hit by the dramas.go.away.bug. Watched Helpless and Blue Gate Crossing the past few days, and I can only be grateful and thankful for the wonderful spectrum of art offered to us in the form of the big reel regardless of country or language. I don’t feel that much irritated or annoyed as before, at least I’ve got some good stuff etched on my mind.
The Helpless (2012)
That. Is pretty much a self-explanatory shot of the movie. You’re guaranteed to feel as helpless and hope-less (as life is without hope) as Lee Seon Gyeon’s character Mun Ho watching it. It’s that frustrating and gloomy, as is the usual characteristic of a downright and genuine Korean thriller. They do it best.
Helpless revolves around Mun Ho’s arduous journey to search for his to-be-wife Kang Sun Young (Kim Min Hee) who vanishes without trace into thin air one day a week before their wedding. As he engages his former cop brother (played by Jo Sung Ha) and dives into the search and investigation, they slowly come about information about Sun Young that terrifies them body and soul.
This genre is no doubt one of the most celebrated and welcome in Korea, you have to admit that the Koreans have a knack in bringing such films to life without solely or merely relying on dazzling or blinging action sequences. Helpless rides on the same course with the right amount of intensity and suspense, with sufficient touches on the emotional ups and downs endured by the characters in the show. It is a typical Korean-made thriller and not at all original, you may even have seen something like it before, but it’s got a character of itself, a thriller with the right amount emotion and nuance, however faint. Nothing more nothing less.
A gloomy and grim reality/mood looms over the entire show, it is never light nor cheery. Mun Ho’s desperation hits you really hard as he tries his best to grasp the brutal realities attacking him one by one as he delves deeper into the life of Sun Young. He never gives up on the genuine belief that his wife had a reason to disappear just like that, but yet is struck with moral dilemmas at the same time. It’s such a difficult scale to balance that you can’t help but feel so much for him, for that he has to endure so much bleakness and emptiness to end up at a corner with no way to turn as well.
The story can be a tad predictable, but it’s got enough suspenseful sequences to keep you guessing. It’s not a full blown creative thriller by all means, but its engaging enough and gets you to put pieces together (thought I wasn’t able to). Some sequences are somewhat convenient and randomly thought out, but overall, execution is good. It never bites more than what it can chew and just stays true to itself thruout until the end.
Acting is good all across the board, especially when you’ve got actors like Lee Seon Gyeon and Jo Sung Ha who are capable of carrying shows with charisma ALONE. But the scene sealer here is no doubt the leading lady Kim Min Hee, who gives a gripping and emotionally riveting performance of the lost Sun Young. Her range in wonderful in a sense that she can get you right into her character and make you feel for her right off the bat. She’s got less screen time than the 2 main guys, but her impact and presence is felt the most.
Overall, a pretty enjoyable and decent thriller flick. It’s not like WOW great, but I appreciate that it’s able to mark its territory all the same amongst the mass of thrillers that Korea has offered so far.
Trailer w/ Eng Subs
Blue Gate Crossing (2002)
I love love love the shot up there a lot. It captures the beauty of youth and adolescence perfectly. The bike we use to go around places (well we don’t cycle a lot here but I do think it’s a common scene in TW), the longing and yearning for the girl you like, the nonchalant attitude, the nor here nor there romance, the friendship..etc. Each reminds me of a certain point or period in time when we just lived life as it is without the worry of the world.
I must be shameless to shout out loud that I never saw the then famed Blue Gate Crossing until last night. I was SOOOO annoyed by the episode of AGD I was watching (Yi Soo and Mae Ah Ri grated on my nerves like hell) I decided to just stay away from it for a short time. So I clicked on Youtube, and ended up gulping BGC in a go. I know it’s way long due, meant to be watched back then, especially when I was in the brim of blooming preadulthood, it kinda makes more sense and I would have related to the story a lil bit more. But 10 years later, here I am re-living my youth thru this precious and quiet coming of age story. Despite the loss of time, watching the movie now sheds a lot more light on how I’d live my entire HS years back then. All the craziness and madness, it’s so perfectly encapsulated in wild memories of our youth, so bold and unbridled we were.
Nothing grand or big happens in the movie, apart from the fact that friendships are forged, complicated feelings are dealt with day by day. I love that the movie doesn’t speed thru scenes, it’s slow paced but yet they are defined and memorable. Some without dialogue, some too much of it, either way, they feel real and are depicted without relying too much on manufactured wit or humour. Nothing is overly pervasive or intrusive in here and yet it brings out issues that we as humans, not just as teenagers, have to deal with in everyday life. The opportunity of youth however allows the characters to see, act and deal with them in different ways.
Kwai Lun Mei plays Meng Ke Rou in such a wonderfully understated and natural way that you’d never have guessed she was a mere rookie back then. But perhaps it’s that genuine innocence and freshness she had back then starting at such a young age which propelled the naturalness in MKR. The way she walks and talks totally embodies that of a growing teenage HS gal who’s confused about her affinities with her 2 friends – Ling Yue Zhen and Zhang Shi Hao. The emotions, restrained and raw, all bottled up inside waiting to be explored. But most importantly, it’s the unique refreshing aura she carries which leaves the greatest impression, not in the likes of most TW idol celebs. Definitely not something that comes with practice or skill, it’s more often inherent, you have it or you don’t.
Bolin Chen, so young and handsome. I remember watching him play Li Da Ren in ITWY last year and commented on how NOTshowy he is as an actor. He doesn’t really go over the top in his expressions, most of them just spot on and just there. Rewind a decade, he gives me exactly the same feeling and vibe in BGC. The math is wrong here, but it doesn’t matter because you touch me with a role, I remember you forever. The thing about Zhang Shi Hao is that his playfulness and vibrancy doesn’t annoy, it may do so to MKR but it doesn’t bug me. I love that he’s honest with MKR and I love it even more that she teases and leads him on, making him want to spend more time with her. It’s quite a simple form of friendship if you don’t break it down and see what entails behind the veil.
Apparently KLM and BC are BFF more akin to soulmates in RL (so honey sweet AWWWWW). I’m sorta happy that BGC sealed the friendship for them because while there weren’t any sizzling heart palpitating scenes btwn them in the movie, their rapport was more than lovely, and carried the movie beautifully to the very end. Their slow-brewing and subtle display of affection for each other as friends or another is depicted so quietly and unassuming that you’d miss it if you’re watching it just to pass time.
Director/Writer Yee Chin Yen‘s direction of his self-penned script is very earthy and grounded, no over-reliance on visuals or specific style. The season is set during Summer of which colors are vibrant and cheery, mood happy and chirpy. It coincides a lot with the time when things start to bloom (friendship or romance) in a heart-fluttery way, such as which is showed in MKR’s affection for her buddy LYZ and LYZ’s obsession with ZSH. The movies strips itself down to the core i.e. characters, but the director doesn’t forget some zoom ins of the city and the school, places where the day-by-day things happen in the movie, coupled with some wonderful music scores (soothing and breezy). The dialogues are mostly repetitive in important scenes, which may get a bit too redundant and grating, but thru them, you will feel a sense of urgency and brewing undercurrent, as characters begin to glean more on issues that they never really wanted to deal with or admit knowing about from the beginning. The morale or message the movie bears, as quoted from MKR’s ending poetic message, is never truer said in the form of words.
Overall, a very delicate and breezy movie about growing up and friendship. It doesn’t evoke plethora of emotions in a grandiose obvious way, but it reaches far enough and sets a bar quite high for youth or adolescence related/themed movies. A must watch for sure.
credits: pictures as tagged/ youtube links