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Although many films rely upon misleading advertising or false hyperbole, viewers can be assured that “More Than Blue” (a.k.a. “A Story Sadder Than Sadness”) delivers exactly as its title suggests. Directed by former poet Won Tae Yeon, the film is an unashamed tearjerker, offering a tale of true love and terminal illness that throws a few extra twists into the usual mix. Although the premise is a familiar one, Won takes a gentle approach, and attempts to explore his characters rather than falling back upon too many of the usual sob story clichés.
After a rather needless wrap around opening story about a singer and his manager in search of a song, the plot begins proper, introducing the viewer to radio producer K (Kwon Sang Woo, recently in “Fate”) and lyricist Cream (Lee Bo Young, who also starred in “Once Upon a Time in Seoul”), who have been living together as chaste soul mates since they were young. The two have much in common, from their taste in noodles right through to the fact that they are both orphans. The two would seem like the perfect couple, and indeed probably would be, if it weren’t for K’s hidden secret, namely that he is dying from cancer. Determined to conceal his impending fate from Cream, he tries to find her a suitable husband before he dies, who seems to turn up in the form of dentist Joo Hwan (Lee Bum Soo, “Death Bell”). Unfortunately, although he clearly has feelings for Cream, he is already engaged, forcing K to take matters into his own hands.
“More Than Blue” is a film which truly wears its heart on its sleeve, and is all the better for it. By wisely getting the cancer admission out of the way at the very start, Won is free to spend his time on more interesting aspects of the story, primarily character development and motivation. By actually putting in the effort to make the viewer care about K and Cream, he not only makes the film more moving, but more importantly, more believable. This is definitely to the film’s considerable benefit, as the plot itself is rather shaky, basically revolving around never-ending yearning, odd schemes and two people who are very clearly in love and who should very obviously be together, for no matter how short a time. Of course, herein lies the tragedy, and the film is indeed very sad, especially towards the end as K’s plan nears fruition and Cream looks set to end up with Joo Hwan. Some of these scenes do have an awkward note, no doubt intentionally so, since the viewer inevitably is rooting for K, and since Joo Hwan is a far more one note figure, and rather stiff and distant. Won does throw in a number of twists during the last act which, although not exactly unpredictable do have the desired effect of making things even more emotional.
Thankfully, the film is sad without being either cheap or melodramatic, with the well written script and characters meaning that its tears are hard earned and justified. By sign posting the ending from the start, Won lays his cards on the table rather than relying upon sudden last act realisations of love, and as a result the film has a winning sense of honesty to its relationships. This is thanks in no small part to a pair of great performances from Kwon Sang Woo and Lee Bo Young, who help to further lift their characters from being generic figures. The two have a real charisma, and are very natural in the scenes together, coming across very much as a real couple who are entirely comfortable together, and indeed who belong together. Needless to say, this only makes things even sadder.
Since this is exactly what Won intends, and since it is exactly what fans of the form will no doubt be looking for, it really is hard to fault “More Than Blue”. A well made, well intentioned, ne plus ultra tragic love story, it certainly stands among the best genre offerings of recent years, and wins points for shying away from the worst excesses of its peers and for showing considerably more substance.
Tae-Yeon Won (director) / Tae-Yeon Won (screenplay)
CAST: Sang-woo Kwone … Kay
Bo-young Lee … Cream
Beom-su Lee … Cha Joo-hwan
Ae-Yeon Jeong … Jenna
Han-wi Lee … President Kim
Gyu-ri Nam … Catgirl
Hyeong-tak Shin … Min-cheol