Sang-eun (played by Kang Hye-jung) is twenty years old, but under that normal pretty visage lies a mind that is a tad mentally challenged. It can be kind of hard to tell sometimes, because even though Sang-eun has elaborate fantasies about princes, these fantasies are so elaborate they end up becoming hip and post-modern. We all just want to meet our prince, after all. And in this case, the prince is rookie cop Jong-bom (played by Jung Kyung-ho) who has a bit of an attitude problem but that's OK, because so did Beast in Beauty and the Beast.
"Herb" is a romantic movie where the heroine's intelligence quotient is about seventy and the love interest probably has at least thirty points more than that. Put that way, the movie probably sounds pretty unavoidably creepy. For that glaring issue, though, "Herb" has one big factor going for it in abundance- heart. While Sang-eun seems, at times, to be dangerously naive, she has a strong sense of will and moral responsibility. She's an easy character to like, so what's wrong with the idea of her finding love?
Even though Sang-eun is the star of "Herb", Jong-bom is the main person here who goes through an actual character arc. Whereas at the beginning of the movie he abuses police authority to hit on Sang-eun (and is predictably reprimanded for this behavior), by the end Jong-bom has decided to act more like a prince and less like a beast because, well, because that's what Sang-eun sees in him. Sang-eun knows that Jong-bom is capable of being a good person and forces him to raise his own expectations.
I've always been a fan of stories that can take a morally repugnant taboo (in this case dating a retarded person) and present it in a way that makes it seem sweet. The reason "Herb" is able to do such a good job with this is because Kang Hye-jung really does sell Sang-eun as being a young woman with her own thoughts and feelings. Even if Sang-eun vents out frustrations by jumping on a trampoline, well, so what? Is that somehow worse than taking a class in mixed martial arts, just because it's supposedly less adult?
The sentiment in "Herb" is really spot on, and it's a difficult movie to dislike. However, the final act definitely makes an effort in this department, as a melodramatic subplot ends up completely taking hold of the story in a way that seemed a little over-the-top. Yes, symbolically, Sang-eun has to go into the world on her own (and also wrap-around to the opening job interview), but was it really necessary for the narrative to go that far?
...Well, in all fairness that much was more a matter of process rather than planning. Seven writers share credit for the screenplay of "Herb", and the various storylines are fairly episodic in nature. It's just, this is the magical life of Sang-eun, the woman who can't grow up, obviously wants to, yet doesn't let her obvious inferiority serve as an impediment to a happy life. Good for her- while Sang-eun may not be all that smart, she does have the right idea.
Review by William Schwartz
Available on DVD from YESASIA
DVD TH (En Sub)
DVD HK (En Sub)
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Herb" + DVD Giveaway"
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
[Spottoon Review] Back to the Highteen Series Preview:A Second Chance to Find Yourself
Back to the Highteen by Gi Seul is the perfect webtoon for those of you who yearn for a second cha,...More
[USA] "Beauty Inside" DVD-Blu-ray-Digital HD Release + **Blu-ray Giveaway** First-come, First-served @wellgousa
"Beauty Inside" is available now in the USA on DVD Blu-ray Digital HD, get a free Blu-ray copy on ,...More
Subscribe to HanCinema Pure to remove ads from the website (not for episode and movie videos) for US$0.99 monthly or US$7.99 yearly (you can cancel anytime). The first step is to be a member, please click here : Sign up, then a subscribe button will show up.