Film Review: My Dear Enemy

BOTTOM LINE: Enemies, a love story - told with intelligence and pizzazz.

Pusan International Film Festival
Asian Film Market

More Pusan 2008 reviews

"My Dear Enemy" is a road movie that keeps halting in search of parking space -- a debt-collecting trip that brings together old flames whose love is put on indefinite slow-burn.

Lee Yoon-ki ("This Charming Girl") the guru of transient modern love and master raconteur has directed his best film yet. Eloquently scripted, with finely tuned dialogue, immaculate characterization and emotions that are brewed like coffee until the aroma comes out, this cinematic rendezvous will be savored by a mature, sophisticated audience. Korea's hottest actors Jeon Do-youn and Ha Jung-woo display fabulous rapport. They'll certainly drive up local and niche international sales.

After a year-long silence, Hee-su (Jeon Do-youn) looks up ex-boyfriend Byung-woon (Ha Jung-woo) to demand repayment of a $3,500 debt. A thick-skinned lady's man who doesn't have a bean, Byung-woon takes her on a one day impromptu drive around Seoul to borrow money from women who crossed his path. Each has her own baggage, and is connected to Byung-woon in different ways.

These episodes have the free-flowing rhythm of jazz improvisations, but with each encounter, Hee-su learns to see Byung-woon in a new light. Buddhism preaches that your enemy is your best spiritual teacher. Thanks to Byung-woon, Hee-su is introduced to a world of good will and good faith, and learns the non-monetary meaning of indebtedness.

The film is adapted from a Japanese novella, but it translates beautifully into the Seoul urban-scape, as the narrative takes one through the city's high rises and small alleys to absorb its mellow autumnal colors. Even though a large proportion of shots are taken beside the steering wheel or through a dashboard, the fluid cinematography still sustains visual interest.

Ha Jung-woo, who terrifies as a psychopath in "The Chaser," is effortlessly convincing as the lovable louse that women love to hate. Jeon Do-youn gives a flawless performance as an uptight, angry woman who lets down her guard in the course of the film.

As they say, it is the journey, not the destination that counts, and this film is one journey that both protagonists and audience wish could go on longer.

Production companies: Sponge, bom Film Productions Co., Ltd.
Cast: Ha Jung-woo, Jeon Do-youn.
Director-screenwriter: Lee Yoon-ki.
Screenwriter: Park Eun-young.
Executive producer: Cho Eun-un.
Producers: David Cho, Cho Kwang-hee, Oh Jung-wan.
Sales: Finecut.
No rating, 125 minutes.