First off, let me assure you that I am not spoiling anything by telling you that Yongho, the main character, commits suicide. This takes place in the movie’s first sequence, about 5 minutes into the movie. The film is told in reverse order, akin to the masterful “Memento”, only the events that unfold in “Peppermint Candy” takes place over 2 decades instead of a day. Because of this, some segments are more confusing than others, and time is needed to become familiarized with each new timeline the movie jumps to.
“Peppermint Candy” is very Korean in attitude as well as its subject matters. It follows the life of Yongho through the tumultuous ’80s and ’90s in South Korea’s history. Through Yongho, we see the events that changed the country, shaping it into the current state it is now — for better or worst.
The movie, like many South Korean films I’ve seen of late, has at its central core the student movement of the ’70s, when students rose up to disturb the status quo in an attempt to change society as they knew it. Caught in the middle is Yongho, a man whose life is drastically altered, although how and why we don’t know until near the end of the film, when the movie’s narrative takes us further and further back into the past.
The movie is slow-paced but never boring. Not an easy feat considering the subject matter, which has few bursts of violence and manic moments, but is very evenly somber for the most part.
The director relies on symbolism and a variety of motifs to express his views, and through it all Yongho is nothing more than a cog in some great machine. What happens to him is not more his fault or the results of his actions, but simply his inability to escape history. He is a man caught up in a changing world, and nothing he could have done would have altered his fate — or the fate of the country once the tide of change began.
Chang-dong Lee (director)
CAST: Kyung-gu Sol …. Yongho
Yejin Kim …. Hongja