Often while watching this movie, I was puzzled as to why it was so long. The film's aesthetic and narrative bears much similarity to a short film. Dong-ha (played by Jeong Woo-seong) meets his old acquaintance Mei (played by Gao Yuanyuan) while on a business trip to Chengdu in China. There's plenty of reminiscing about old times, drumming up of nostalgia and old emotions. And it would seem like that's all there is to it. Or is it?
All of the conversations between Dong-ha and Mei are in English, as this is the only language they have in common, even though Dong-Ha is Korean and Mei is Chinese. This in itself puts something of an obvious emotional distance between the two. By definition, the substance of their hearts can't really meet. The English dialogue is a constant, subtle undertone of the cultural gap that separates the two, and the extent of their inability to properly communicate.
But to be perfectly clear- this representation is symbolic only. I can see countless separated lovers of the world, in this same chance encounter, in this same recollection of bygone days, being this held back. It's a common cliche about reconnecting with old friends and making that encounter a moment to remember. But Dong-ha and Mei don't live in that sort of storybook reality. They're actual human beings that have in many ways moved on from who they once were and have to be convinced into looking backwards.
Selective memory plays another heavy role in the proceedings here. Multiple scenes imply that Dong-ha and Mei not only lie to each other about past events, but aren't even totally sure what the truth really is. Director Heo Jin-ho wisely avoids the use of flashback here, not wanting the objectivity of the camera to accidentally give weight behind certain versions. The past is, for Dong-Ha and Mei, largely unknowable.
So what about the future? "Season of Good Rain" does provide some answers on this front, with a clear ending that isn't exactly definite, but certainly provides its own vision of hope. What the story boils down to is one last choice. And it's an immensely appropriate sentimental gesture, standing in stark contrast to everything else Dong-ha and Mei have done so far, each action carefully calculated, to maintain the parallel between that unfortunate adult feeling of wanting to do something while realizing it's probably a bad idea.
"Season of Good Rain" is an intensely emotional, extremely effective film that takes a serious look at the past and retrospect. The tourist backdrop of Chengdu is a fitting one, drawing together that same feeling of images that feel like they could last a lifetime, yet will they really? The story of Dong-ha and Mei is perhaps one that will never end. And yet, lurking as it always will in the back of their minds, for the rest of their lives it will no doubt continue to shift with the prevailing emotions of the time. It's an unusually constructed film to be sure, even within the limited drama of introspective romances, but that only makes "Season of Good Rain" all the more 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] "Season of Good Rain""
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