Il Mare (2000) Movie Review

If you thought the idea of actual time travel is fraught with disaster, then you should try your hand at writing a Time Travel movie! The smart filmmakers make the conscious decision to address the small paradoxes that creep up, but to ignore the whoppers that stand out like the 800lb gorilla in the living room. For instance, “Terminator 2” addresses the fact that the Terminator sent back in time looks like the Terminator from the original movie (i.e. both were played by Arnold Schwarzenegger), but it ignores this question: if the Terminator was sent back in time to prevent a future event, and if he succeeded, then why would he be sent back in time in the first place, and thus change events? The paradox is maddening.

Hyun-seung Lee, the writer/director of “Il Mare” (aka “A Love Story”), addresses some minor issues involved with time travel, but ignores the biggest Time Travel paradox of them all, as discussed above. Ji-hyun Jun (“My Sassy Girl”) stars as Eun-ju, a young woman still pining for a boyfriend who had gone abroad to study 2 years earlier, but who she has not heard from since. As she leaves a beachfront home called Il Mare, Eun-ju leaves a letter in her mailbox meant for the next owner to forward her mail to her new address. At about the same time, Sung-hyun (Jung-Jae Lee) is moving into Il Mare, but as we see, he’s just now naming it “Il Mare”.

Fast-forward to 20 minutes later in the movie and it’s established that the Il Mare mailbox has magical properties. It can send any object 2 years into the future by anyone in the past, or 2 years into the past by anyone in the future. Eun-ju is in the year 2000, and Sung-hyun is in 1998. Although the two are suspicious at first, it doesn’t take long before the two mutually lonely people start corresponding, although why Sung-hyun never bothers to ask for lottery numbers or the winners of major sports events, I don’t know. (Do they gamble in South Korea?) It doesn’t take long before Eun-ju has forgotten about the love of her life that got away, and Sung-hyun is finding salvation in Eun-ju.

“Il Mare” is one of those movies with a fantastical premise that just needs to be accepted without question. Like “Frequency”, a movie about a father and son who somehow makes contact over a 30-year span via a ham radio, “Il Mare” is filled with nagging questions that begs to be asked, but doing so will only ruin the enjoyment of the film. As the lovelorn Eun-ju, Ji-hyun Jun once again proves that she plays a better adult than she does a teenager. Jung-Jae Lee (“Last Witness”) is equally good as the architecture with troubling family issues.

Unfortunately whereas a lot of Time Travel movies manage to be about something, “Il Mare” is too satisfied with being about nothing. The themes of love and need is just too generic, and for much of the film the two leads spend their time lost in thought or staring off into nothing, pondering about what they’ve lost and how neither can get on with life, and not realizing that they already have vis-Ã -vis each other. I guess if you’re really prone to long bouts of internal monologue, “Il Mare” will appeal to you. But I wished the film had been about something more than just these two people and their little insignificant problems.

If you could survive the sappy melodrama, then “Il Mare” has some of the most enticing visuals ever put to film. The cinematography by Hong Gyeong-Pyo (“Guns and Talks”) is radiant and marvelous to behold. I’ve never seen interior architecture look so incredible, and I am one of those guys who have as much appreciation for architecture as a football fan with paint on my face. But every time the movie melts away into yet another “personal” scene, there were always the visuals to fall back on. This film is beautiful to look at.

Despite its problems, “Il Mare” is nevertheless a good movie, with fine performances by the two leads. The screenplay is not all doom and gloom, and has bursts of happiness and joy to lighten up the mood. The film itself isn’t very dark, it’s quite bright and happy-go-lucky, and its idea that life is worth living if you can forget the past is worthy, if you don’t already know it. Interestingly enough, the part of my brain prone to thinking didn’t have any problems with the time travel angle at all. It was the little things, the every day events in “Il Mare” that kept nagging at me.

Questions like: How does the single Eun-ju afford to live in a place like Il Mare, and then later in a large apartment, when she makes a living as a voice actor? And who exactly is paying for Sung-hyun’s Il Mare residence, and how is it that later he can afford to “contract” someone to build a house on a terrific beachside property when he’s just a construction worker?

Hyun-seung Lee (director) / Hyun-seung Lee (screenplay)
CAST: Jung-Jae Lee …. Han Sung-hyun
Ji-hyun Jun …. Kim Eun-ju

Buy Il Mare on DVD