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Jeon, Ha's Chemistry Give Life to 'Enemy'

2008/09/18 | 213 views | Permalink | Source

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

One day, two characters, lots of dialogue and hushed emotions ― only Jeon Do-yeon and Ha Jung-woo could pull it off. South Korea's most in-demand actors get together as former lovers in the post-break up road movie "My Dear Enemy". Of course none other than director Lee Yoon-ki ("This Charming Girl") orchestrated this enchanting story about spending an abnormal day with an ex.

Jeon chose a rather mundane character to emerge from her immortalized Cannes Best Actress-winning role in "Secret Sunshine". But the actress shines through more than ever as she sustains dramatic tension for two hours with an ordinary persona, saying more in what is unsaid rather than hysterical tears. Heui-su is an irritable, uptight 30-year-old who, wearing immaculate eye makeup, never forgets to tuck away her road navigator before getting out of the car. Jobless, unmarried and broke, she tracks down her ex-boyfriend Byeong-un (Ha), who disappeared a year ago after borrowing 3.5 million won ($3,500).

"Wow, what are you doing here? How have you been?" Byeong-un grins brightly, to which Heui-su coldly replies, "Give me my money". Ha, Korean cinema's "it" actor ("The Chaser") who played opposite towering talents like Vera Farmiga ("Never Forever"), shows he's fit to take on another leading lady. On the surface, his shameless parasitic character seems to be an extension of the swindling host he played in "The Moonlight of Seoul". But the actor employs hyperrealism complete with sleepy eyes and a rhythmic bounce in his walk to craft a completely new personality.

Byeong-u, a hopelessly optimistic Candide with the allure of Casanova, is genuinely happy to see someone who had left him for another man. While unemployed and single like Heui-su, he has the leisure to give others betting advice at a horseracing track and dreams of opening a rice wine bar in Spain one day. He promises to pay her, but they must make a detour, as the penniless fellow must borrow money from one lady friend after another, beginning with a female employee at the horseracing track. The awkward couple hit the road to travel from an elder chairwoman to a poor divorcee working at a supermarket, a rich bargirl, a married college sweetheart and even a young woman Byeong-un once taught how to ski, among others.

Over the course of one day, Heui-su revisits all the things she loved and hated about her ex-boyfriend. There is nothing dramatic about the film, as the most drastic events are missing the subway and such. The beauty of the film is that the long takes capture every bit of the chemistry between the two charismatic actors. Running into an ex can inspire the most ambivalent feelings, and the film explores such dynamics by setting an average woman against a man who is not only her antithesis, but also an allegorical figure that pushes forth the narrative.

Like Michael Cimino once said, a good film makes you forget you're watching a movie and "Enemy" does just this by transforming a familiar situation into something at once believable and extraordinary.

In theaters Sept. 25. 123 minutes. 12 and over. Distributed by Lotte Entertainment.

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