That simple statement expresses everything there is to know
about Jin-ho Hur's One Fine Spring Day, a movie that is about the
awkwardness of attraction and the pain of a burning passion suddenly doused. It
is about love found, love enthralled, and finally love lost.
Sang-woo lives with his father, his stepmother, and
grandmother in the South Korean countryside. They're out in the country,
although you wouldn't know it by Sang-woo's many electronics, including a
cellphone and his job as a sound engineer dubbing voices for TV shows. Sang-woo
and his family is caring for his elderly grandmother, who is suffering from the
loss of her husband. We learn that years ago Sang-woo's grandfather cheated on
his wife, and that betrayal continues to haunt the family. Despite that, the
grandmother's love for her husband has never diminished because she journeys
each morning to the town bus station to wait for her husband to return home from
work. The movie hints that Sang-woo's grandmother suffers from Alzheimer's, but
one suspects it's actually more of a self-inflicted illness.
One day, Sang-woo
is hired for a temporary project to record nature sounds with a young woman who
works as a DJ at a radio station in the next town over. The woman, Eun-su, and
Sang-woo immediately falls for one another, and their romance begins after a few
awkward moments where both take tentative baby steps toward a relationship. Once
they give in to the passion, they are inseperable, and life seems effortless and
grand. That is, until the passion begins to leave Eun-su and she finds herself
wishing to withdraw from Sang-woo, but unsure how to do it. Unfortunately for
the fledging couple, Sang-woo's passion for Eun-su shows no signs of abating.
One Fine Spring Day takes place over a few months
and the movie moves slowly, with director Hur taking great pains to frame every
single shot perfectly. His camera rarely moves beyond the initial establishing
shot, and actors move in and out of frame, giving us the feeling of outsiders
being given a secret peek into the lives of these two people. Despite the
continuation of long takes, there is enough emotional action taking place within
the frame that one never gets tired of the device. There is no doubt the South
Korean countryside is a beautiful place, and rather covered in snow or suffering
under a downpour, the countryside is lovingly photographed and brought to
vibrant life. In one scene, the soft, languid flutter of snowflakes turns an
ordinary scene into something extraordinary.
Hur is lucky to have found two perfect actors in Ji-Tae Yu
(Sang-woo) and Yeong-ae Le (Eun-su). Yu brings a sense of vulnerability to his
role as Sang-woo, a confidant young man who falls head over heels for Eun-su,
and is unable to relinquish that feeling even after Eun-su begins to drop hints
that she needs to move on. Lee's Eun-su is not entirely unlikable, although she
does do some unflattering things toward the love-struck Sang-woo that might
appear harsh and even cruel. Her character is in transition, a young woman who
needs affection and gets it from Sang-woo, but we always get the feeling she is
not in love, but rather in love with the notion of having someone with her.
Sang-woo, it seems, was a convenient lover. It isn't long before Eun-su drifts
toward someone else, leaving Sang-woo to deal with the pieces of their
relationship and his unchanged feelings for her. How he deals with it is enough
to make you cringe, but at the same time you can't help but completely
understand because we've all been there. This is human nature. This is what
happens when someone you're in love with falls out of love with you.
To say that not much happens in One Fine Spring Day
is an understatement. The movie moves at a languid pace, although once you
become engrossed in the film it's hard to imagine that the movie could have
moved at any other pace. Things are perfectly timed, and everything seems in
perfect step with life, nature, and the process of new love. One Fine Spring
Day is a hell of a fine movie, and it is quite impossible not to be drawn
into the human emotions of the story, even as it shifts back and forth from
Sang-woo's struggles to understand what is happening to his love life and
Sang-woo's family as they struggle to care for Sang-woo's grandmother, who seems
to be getting worst with each day. The grandmother's story fits perfectly into
the movie's main theme of love found and lost, and the heartbreak that comes
with trying to get over someone who doesn't seem to have all that much trouble
getting over you.
Love is grand. But it also hurts like a sonofabitch.