I was surprised to discover near the end of this film that main character On-yoo (played by Im Ji-kyu) is actually thirty two years old. There's a youthful energy and optimism to this man that certainly makes it seem like he's several years younger than that. On-yoo is not exactly in a great situation right now in his life, yet seems to take every possible opportunity to be a smiling, cheerful, positive-thinking man.
Contrast our other main character Ye-na (played by Shim Yi-young). She looks weary, tired, and ten years older than her actual age. This is a woman who's been beaten down by life. By any objective standard she's enjoyed the societal success that On-yoo is lacking. Ye-na has had a successful career, suffers no financial problems whatsoever, and the public nature of her work is such that even strangers can recognize her. And yet the film opens up on the aftermath of her suicide attempt. It then further retraces the steps that led up to this point and finds that, for all Ye-na's apparent success, she had to make devil's bargains that have ultimately led to her current state of profound depression.
"Precious Love" is an astonishingly critical film about modern cultural trends. It openly questions ideas of what it means for a person to be truly independent and successful. What Ye-na discovers is that, time and again, she has consistently traded away people who actually care about her as a person for ones who treat her like a commodity. Ye-na's suicidal tendencies appear to come from the belief that no one actually cares whether she lives or dies. And given the information we have access to, Ye-na may well be right about this.
And this is where On-yoo comes in- he can't solve the mistakes Ye-na's made in her life, or convince her that things aren't so bad. They are. What he can do is offer hope. He can make the argument to Ye-na that she's not the worthless person she thinks she is, that her actions have had meaning. Does this make up for all the pain she's had to deal with up until this point?
...Well, probably not. "Precious Love" may resort to corny cliches and interconnectedness at points in order to deliver its message of hopeful optimism, but there's a seriousness to Ye-na's mental issues that does an excellent job of preventing the film from lapsing into self-parody. The ending clearly connects everything that's happened in the movie to the experiences of real, everyday people, and this emotional center is far more significant than the specific tropes the script ends up using.
"Precious Love" is an extremely human film in regards to these frustrations, and I honestly have to applaud it just on the merits of being able take such a strong stand against commercialism just for the sake of commercialism. Ironically, the movie does present consumer culture in a positive light regarding one very specific angle. What makes this such a lovely film, though, is that in all its moments success is defined by emotional impact and not spreadsheets. This isn't a perfect movie- there's a few too many subplots and the humor doesn't always connect. It is nonetheless well worth watching.
Review by William Schwartz
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Precious Love""
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