Sung-Hyun (played by Lee Jung-jae) and Eun-Joo (played by Jun Ji-hyun) are both at a crossroads in their lives. They've lost interest and ambition in their dreams, so they come alone to a beachhouse to rest and repose themselves for whatever comes next in their lives. The twist is, they never actually meet. Separated by the winds of time, they become aware of each others' presence only indirectly, continuing to reflect in solitude while receiving brief bursts of hope and optimism from one another.
"Il Mare" is a film that expertly delineates the difference between loneliness and solitude. Very little actually changes throughout the movie in the lives of these two characters except their continued correspondence. And yet where once there was a feeling of sad emptiness, there comes genuine reflection on what matters in life, and the realization that there's more to existence than direct validation.
This is perfectly layered in the excellent cinematography, which weaves beautiful, lively, still backdrops in tandem with the characters' moods. Yes, it is a bit of a contradiction for the background to be both lively and still- but that's precisely the contradiction the characters also need to realize. Not moving, or just being alone, doesn't make them dead or unlovable. It's these moments of sheer appreciation that's what makes their lives worth living more than the definitive action-based stuff.
The music also moves between the moods, alternating between jazz and soft sadness depending on the relevant feeling of the moment. It's easy to feel yourself wafting through the various tones this film has to offer, as even when the narrative begins to hit emotional extremes, the breezy atmosphere is excellent preparation. Just as the character must wait patiently to receive new correspondence, so too must the viewer learn to just accept things they are and glide along with the moment.
This is a film entirely about escaping the logic of trying to order all of life according to a structured narrative. The purpose of "Il Mare" itself is not to micromanage the plot, and ask questions like "this seems implausible" or "why don't they use the mailbox to do crazier stuff". Rather, the film's framing device exists mainly to prop up a broader fairy tale about the meaning of emotional attachment and love- as well as the danger inherent in coming up with pessimistic appraisals of a situation where a logical explanation isn't immediately forthcoming.
In many ways this is a jab at our own human insecurities- a reminder that, however much progress we think we've made, it's all too easy to slip back into old habits, and forcefully take a moment of joy and turn it into one of sorrow. The characters of "Il Mare" are human souls- not perfect people, but flawed ones. And that's the sweetness in this film, too. When these flaws seems to obvious to the self, and yet still a stranger a mailbox away can find value in that same self, there's optimism inherent in that. Objectively it may sound corny, but the earnest way with which "Il Mare" defines it message makes it a film well worth watching.
Review by William Schwartz
Available on Blu-ray from YESASIA
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] "Il Mare""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Upcoming Korean documentary "One of a Kind 3D: G Dragon 2013 1st World Tour"
Added the upcoming Korean documentary "One of a Kind 3D: G Dragon 2013 1st World Tour"'s page to H,...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.