Popular Korean actor Yoo Ji Tae (“Old Boy”, “Woman is the Future of Man”) returns in a double role as twin brothers in “Secret Love”, which marks the directorial debut of Ryu Hoon, screenwriter of Jung Yoon Soo’s hit romantic comedy “My Wife Got Married”. Although the film sees him again dealing with the theme of a woman caught between two men, here he takes a different route with an outing that switches midway from melodrama to mystery thriller. Yoon Jin Suh, recently in “Someone Behind You” plays the woman caught between Yoo Ji Tae and Yoo Ji Tae, carrying the viewer along on a surprising and increasingly unconventional tale of love and deception.
Despite an explanatory voice over, the film begins in disorienting fashion, introducing Yeon Yi (Yoon Jin Suh), an unfortunate woman whose new husband Jin Woo (Yoo Ji Tae) has recently had an accident and fallen into a coma, the same fate which had apparently previously befallen his twin brother. Things get confusing after said twin Jin Ho (also Yoo Ji Tae) turns up unannounced at the hospital and moves in with Yeon Yi, awaking in her all manner of feelings and memories. The two start a torrid affair, only for matters to take a further twist when Jin Woo wakes up, resulting in a decidedly uncomfortable situation. Pushed back and forth between the two brothers, she tries to make sense of her conflicting emotions, as it becomes apparent that the twins may be harbouring a dark secret.
“Secret Love” really is a film of two halves, fittingly enough given its subject material. The first hour or so is a fairly standard romance melodrama, with poor Yeon Yi going through the not unexpected process of falling in love with Jin Ho while Jin Woo lies in his coma. Although wholly predictable, this works reasonably well, mainly due to Yoon Jin Suh’s excellent performance in the challenging role of the confused young woman who slowly comes to terms with her feelings and physical attraction to the two men.
With Jin Woo and Jin Ho to a large extent being defined by their overlapping characteristics and the deepening mystery as to their identities, it is Yeon Yi who drives the film’s drama as well as providing its emotional heart, with the viewer seeing things from her understandably uncertain perspective. Filled with cryptic omens and enigmas, during this first half the film quite closely resembles a more erotically charged version of the 2002 Lee Byung Hun starring drama “Addicted”, perhaps a little too much so at times, though it still manages to be engaging enough.
All of this changes once Jin Ho wakes up, as the film immediately shifts gears and becomes a leftfield mystery based upon the question as to which of the twins is really which, and whether Yeon Yi has actually married the right man. At this point the pace picks up considerably, and the film becomes a great deal more fun, with Ryu Hoon building quite cleverly upon the film’s early sense of languid ambiguity. Working in revenge, betrayal, hysterical revelations and all manner of role changing shenanigans, the film’s last act is highly entertaining, right through to its odd though satisfying conclusion. Although the film strays into some fairly strange territory, thanks to the early investment in character and mood it never becomes too ridiculous, and manages to remain engaging and intriguing. Things do get very racy in places, with some graphic sex scenes and both female and male nudity, though these certainly have their place in the film, representing as they do the changing relationships between the characters, as well as Yeon Yi’s gradual transformation into a woman more in control of her life.
Thanks to it’s unexpectedly over the top second half, “Secret Love” offers something far more enjoyable than its rather standard early scenes of melodrama initially promise. Anchored by some entertaining work by Yoo Ji Tae and a strong, sympathetic turn from the excellent Yoon Jin Suh, it holds the interest throughout despite the fact that it never really makes too much sense.
Ryoo Hoon-I (director) / Kwon Ji-yeon (screenplay)
CAST: Yoo Ji-tae, Yoon Jin-seo, Oh Woo-jeong, Im Ye-jin, Jeong In-gi, Ko Yoo-seon