Bittersweet slice of life comedy “Delivering Love” marks the debut of Korean director Cho Nam Ho, and features the reunion of actresses Kim and Shim Hye Jin from the hit television sitcom “Hello Francheska”. Although the film’s premise sounds familiar enough, focusing on three women of different generations trying to live and love together, it emerges as something much more down to earth and rewarding.
The film follows tough, hard working fruit seller, Nam Hee (Shim Hye Jin, also in the ghost story “Acacia”), who lives with her senile mother Gan Nan (Kim Soo Mi, in a rather different role than that she recently played in “Marrying the Mafia 3”) in a small town. One day trouble arrives in the form of her rather vapid daughter Na Rae (up and coming actress Lee Da Hee, “The Legend”), returning home in shame after having stolen her mother’s money and run away to Seoul in a failed attempt to become a television announcer. The same day, Nam Hee nearly hits a young man called Jun (Lee Sang Woo, “Almost Love”) with her truck, and decides to let him stay with him while he recovers. Strange and childlike, he affects the three women in different ways, bringing about plenty of soul searching and life lessons.
During the early stages of the film, the characters seem suspiciously like stereotypes – the tough, emotionally distant mother, the waste of space daughter, and the crazy old woman. However, as things progress, they are gradually fleshed out, and quietly come to grow on the viewer. “Delivering Love” actually does this in a surprisingly subtle manner, for most part avoiding hysterics or sudden revelations to bring about change. Nam Hee is the most interesting and least typical of the three female characters, keeping her cards close to her chest for most of the running time. Her relationship with Jun really provides the film with it’s emotional anchor, being ambiguous and quietly dramatic, keeping the viewer wondering whether it is destined to blossom into romance, or a mother-son dynamic.
Again, what works well here is the fact that director Cho Nam Ho allows things to play out naturally, and in a pleasingly low-key fashion. Na Rae does become a more intriguing figure during the course of the film, mainly since if anything she only grows less pleasant, taking out her frustrations on the rest of the cast through a series of genuinely nasty acts. Although Gan Nan doesn’t get too much screen time and is really only used as a plot device to keep Jun at the house, at least her senility is not used for cheap laughs, something which has proved quite distasteful in similarly themed films. All three women turn in effective performances, especially Shim Hye Jin, who to an extent carries the film, and Lee Da Hee, who does well with an awkward role.
As a result, although the plot itself is essentially fluff, the characters draw the viewer into the story, and distract from its inherent predictability. To be fair, Cho seems to be aiming more for human drama rather than narrative complexity, and on that score the film certainly succeeds, more than making up for with genuine warmth what it lacks in depth. Largely free of melodrama and cheap sentiment, it is actually quite moving in places, often in less obvious ways than might have been expected – until, of course, the inevitable cathartic emotional outpourings of the final scenes.
Cho’s direction is suitably laid back and remarkably assured for a first time helmer, and he keeps the film grounded, aside from a few ill-advised bursts of surreal imagery, presumably designed to be cute. The film has a bright, though realistic look, and whilst the bouncy soundtrack can be a bit annoying at times, it does help to give the proceedings a distinctly upbeat feel. Although he does inject a few laughs here and there, most of which are generally quite winning, he never lets things get too comical, and as such manages to maintain a sense of believable drama. Best of all, he has the good sense to keep things uncluttered, avoiding the trap so many other films of this kind fall into by eschewing the usual onslaught of flashbacks and musical montages. Clocking in at just over an hour and a half, the film is all the better for being fast moving and efficient, never wallowing or trying to overdo the emotional scenes.
As such, whilst undeniably a chick flick, and therefore most likely to be enjoyed by fans of the form or the cast, “Delivering Love” certainly stands as a superior example of the form and as a competent piece of film making in its own right. All the more effective for its dignity and sense of restraint, it delivers everything required of the genre without falling prey to any of its more tawdry excesses.
Jo Nam-ho (director)
CAST: Shim Hye-jin, Kim Soo-mi, Lee Sang-woo, Lee Da-hee, Lee Kye-in, Choi Deok-moon, Lee Rim, Ban Hye-ra