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“Come Rain, Some Shine” is a Korean indie drama which charts the final day of a soon to split married couple, played by actor Hyun Bin (“Late Autumn”) and actress Lim Soo Jung (“Jeon Woo Chi”). However, where the film, from director Lee Yoon Ki (“My Dear Enemy”) differs, is in that it replaces the usual scenes of emotional outpourings and histrionics with contemplation and poetically subdued visuals. The effects of this approach are unexpectedly powerful, and the film won praise from critics at home and on the international festival circuit, including Berlin, where it was the only Asian entry to screen in competition.
The film’s plot is sparse and, in narrative terms at least, uncomplicated, beginning with a shocking car conversation in which Lim announces that she is leaving Hyun and that she has met another man. The rest of the film follows them during their last day together, as she packs up her things to leave, and he potters around the house. Outside, the rain pours down, thwarting their half-hearted plans for a final meal in a restaurant, and bringing them visitors in the form of neighbours in search of a missing cat. Slowly but surely, the time for her departure draws nearer, and the agony of their impending separation and the weight of their shared past become more intense.
Although “Come Rain, Some Shine” may sound like a pretty typical depressing Korean relationship drama, it’s really anything but. In its own, quiet way, the film is a remarkable and brave effort, taking place almost entirely in one location, and being for the most part either silent or revolving around enigmatic conversations between Hyun Bin and Lim Soo Jung. The film is painfully naturalistic, unfolding entirely at its own studied pace, and with no melodrama or sudden revelations, or even much in the way of explicit explanations, with pretty much all of the cards being laid on the table during the jarring opening scene. Rooms and objects of obvious significance and memories are left ambiguous, allowing the viewer to add their own stories as the characters stare at them, and the film is wonderfully devoid of flashbacks. Even the details of their relationship are distant and obscure, as are their troubles, with Lee never dwelling on the past.
Thankfully, though unconventional, the film is neither abstract nor obtuse, and it does answer most of its questions. Lee’s gently economic approach works very well, and despite its lack of traditionally framed drama, the plot unravels skilfully, gradually moving through the rooms of the house, at once intimate and claustrophobic. The film is tense, constantly anticipating outbursts and searching for an obvious indication of blame, and does make for exquisitely tough viewing at times, being only too recognisable for anyone who has gone through a breakup after living together. Indeed, almost every frame is anchored with sadness and regret, as the characters sift through their shared belongings, gradually taking their lives apart.
The film succeeds to a large extent thanks to excellent performances from Hyun Bin and Lim Soo Jung. Though neither have much dialogue to work with, both provide a masterclass in expressing emotion through gesture and look, and in this respect the film is all the more powerful for forcing the viewer to read between the lines. Lee certainly does wring a great deal of meaning from this, as well as from the perfectly judged visuals, with the single location set feeling much like a haunted house, which of course it is, by the unseen ghosts of their relationship and past.
As a result, whilst it’s fair that some may find its slow pace and lack of traditionally structured scenes and confrontational dialogue hard going, for those fed up of clichéd genre films, “Come Rain, Some Shine” is a true breath of fresh air and arguably far more moving than the vast majority of its thematic peers. Well made, artistic and subtly passionate, the film shows Lee Yoon Ki as a fine craftsman, and stands as one of the best and most believable Korean relationship dramas for some time.
Yoon-ki Lee (director) / Yoon-ki Lee (screenplay)
CAST: Hyun Bin … Man
Jung-woo Ha … Other Man
Hye-ok Kim … Mother
Ji-su Kim … Neighbour
Jung-ki Kim … Neighbour
Su-jeong Lim … Woman