Sometimes when things fall apart, they, may actually be, falling into place!

a man and a woman gong yoo

I know I am but summer to your heart, and not the full four seasons of the year

Edna St. Vincent Millay

A Man and A Woman (2016)
Also known as
Namgwa Yeo & Heart Warming
Written by
Directed by
Country of Origin
South Korea
Running time
115 minutes

oh! … brief

Two parents with two children suffering from varying types of autism meet by chance in the parking lot of their children’s special needs school in Helsinki, Finland. Both families are from South Korea and are both struggling emotionally with their life situation and marriages.

The man (Ki Hong) and woman (Sang Min) are attracted to each other and the situation that brings them together leads them to engage in a sexual encounter. An affair follows some months later. Unfortunately, (did I just write that? Yes!) the affair ends sadly for both when one parent decides to stay in a loveless marriage for the sake of the mentally unstable partner and the depressed autistic child.

oh! … talks film

This film was exceedingly bleak. But, at the same time, remarkably picturesque.

Lee Yoon-ki penned a tragic tale of two desperately sad adults trapped by their situation in loveless, stressful marriages and unique family situations. The sincerity in the story was genuine and allowed for the lingering passion between the two leads to come full circle. It was honestly fashioned and successfully executed.

The fate of people involved in illicit affairs is often tragic, with hearts broken. This is why, for me, the truthful portrayal written into the script and narration allowed for successful interpretation of the tragedy.

I have strong opinions when it comes to affairs and the types of people involved in them, often they are selfish and self-centred, caring only for their own desires, typically sexual in nature. The technique used for this script and the skilled delivery by the leads softened my heart to the reasons why people are driven to cheat on their spouses and are willing to tear their families apart. I won’t be so quick to judge in the future.

Lee Yoon-ki choreographed scenes and the film crew captured all aspects from the minute details of intimate encounters to the sweeping landscape and ongoing life. I wonder if he purposefully chose landscape and natural scenery that mirrors the desolation of the lives of the two leads? Frozen, bitterly cold and mute? He was, in my opinion, courageous in the brutal honesty and the explicit nature of the sexual encounters. This is the first Korean film where I have seen so much skin exposed, especially in the sex scenes which were graphic by Korean standards. The nudity was well-balanced with close-ups on faces exposing the arresting desire and emotion between the two leads.

Extramarital affair films are about a dime a dozen in Hollywood, but I’ve never seen one so artfully created.

Gong Yoo played the male lead alongside Jeon Do Yeon the female lead and the two offenders.

No more spoilers! You must watch this tear jerker! It’s hauntingly pensive and a typical depiction of how affairs end in the real world.

Gong Yoo was impressive, yet again! This guy knows his trade. The line between actor and his character was so blurred it was as if the two became one, the man whose heart and flesh yearned for his lover. Gong Yoo’s facial expressions, the silent pauses between breath and the silence within those silences portrayed a desperately lonely and shy man. He vacillates, then persistently fights and then succumbs to his preoccupation with this woman who has captured his affections. And he does it in the quietest gentle manner possible.

That is what makes Gong Yoo such an outstanding actor, he is natural in any role handed him. In not exaggerating the desire of his character, he makes the affair understandable and believable in human terms and pulls his character to the surface.

Gong Yoo consistently pushes himself, taking on complex roles, this one was an interesting choice because of the potential for controversy in the conservative industry that exists in Korea. Also, I believe this is the first art film Gong Yoo has participated in.

Regardless of any backlash, I feel Gong Yoo should be congratulated for accomplishing genuine chemistry with his co-lead. This wasn’t an all-consuming, frenzied hot mess, it was a quiet intrinsic indwelling between two souls that needed to fill the emptiness and allow themselves to feel something beyond duty to their partner and child.

Jeon Do Yeon was adept at mastering the art of deception. It was rather scary to see how good she was at playing the wife and mother, all the while yearning for more. Jeon Do Yeon naturally and without effort mimics the burdened mother, who’s raising her autistic child who is progressively becoming stronger and more aggressive towards her while balancing a high-stress job, but visibly you can see the fatigue, sadness and despair she is feeling. Her husband is oblivious to her emotions, so he can’t be in harmony with her. I respected how Jeon Do Yeon makes her hesitation visible in the way her body responds and how her mannerisms and the way she speaks, paints a woman who is fighting with herself.

I liked the one scene where out of frustration having learnt of Ki Hong’s wife’s condition, she basically says we like each other let’s just have sex and to hell with allowing any other emotions to cloud the fact. That scene was primitive and instinctual and her interpretation and delivery were authentic and raw.  I loved her in this role and cannot think of any other actress that could perform better in the role.

I’ve struggled to find the accompanying soundtrack online, but I won’t give up, I’ll hunt it down. I wish I could find it so I can add it to my commute playlist and I’ll need it for an upcoming road trip to Nova Scotia to fetch my daughter back from University – she’s all grown up and graduated! I only wish she shared my love for Asian film and drama.

oh! … that’s a wrap

I’m inclined to repeat what I’ve written previously, so I’ll keep this brief. This film is one I’d recommend as the choreography, cinematography, narration and musical score dissolve into a sentimental tale of the human need to connect on a level beyond desire, where yearning can be fulfilled.

The tragedy, while heartbreaking is something that one can learn to live with. The deep unspoken need to connect exists for all of us, it’s a human compulsion. Like my first love, this story is about meeting the right person at the wrong time in life’s journey and no matter how hard you strive to change that, you cannot do it without sacrifice. It’s not a question of whether the sacrifice is worth the effort or not, it is the fact that sometimes our choices are driven by our moral compass and empathetic reasoning.

People will either enjoy this or not. It’s worth making the effort to watch at least the first half hour if you are sceptical.

oh! … soundtrack

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailers

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