I went off to the Lotte cinema in Myeong-dong this morning with a sense of trepidation. They are showing 슬픔보다 더슬픈 이야기 (More Than Blue) with English subtitles and I felt like I should go down and check it out, even though romantic melodramas are not usually my thing. The poster does nothing for me , it says "Look at us. We're beautiful and we're sad. Love us, cry with us!" The literal translation of the Korean title is "A sadder story than sadness". That doesn't make me want to see the film, but then, I think I'm probably not the target audience.
Getting to the theatre I was surprised to see no reference to English subtitles on the listings sheet and the ticket seller who served me had no idea that the film was subtitled. After realizing that it was, she went on to explain that it was because they didn't have enough room for the information, but I have a feeling they could have done it if they had put their minds to it.
A distinct lack of subtitles...
The screening was packed full with fifteen people (the 11:30 showing is perhaps not the most popular choice) and I along with the fourteen other ajummas began our 105 minute journey into Korea's latest melodrama.
Within the first ten minutes we find out the main character, Kay the orphan (played by 권상우 - Kwon Sang-woo), has terminal cancer and in a voice-over he references Romeo's doomed love for Juliet. Things are obviously not going to go well. He lives with fellow orphan Cream (played by 이보영 - Lee Bo-young) and the two of them treat each other like family. They end up in the music industry: Kay is a radio producer and Cream is a song writer. He harbours a secret love for her, but knows it can never be fulfilled, so he decides to help her find a man to look after her. Cream falls for a dentist, Ju-hwan (played by 이범수 - Lee Beom-soo), who she meets at a radio studio and their romance begins to blossom....
So there you have it, the basic premise. To tell you anymore than that would be to ruin the story. It's a romantic melodrama, there will be suffering, there will be death, there will be lots and lots of crying. However, More Than Blue does it a lot more subtly than most Korean television dramas. This may be director/writer 원태연's (Won Tae-yeon) first film, but it feels like he has been making movies for years. The camera work is simple and effective, though sometimes (especially through the use of reflective surfaces) Won Tae-yeon creates some very poetic images. The acting is naturalistic for the most part and the most melodramatic scenes were far subtler than those I have seen in other examples of the genre. The music, while very much in the same style as other melodramas, is not used too often and some of the films most touching moments are played out in silence.
The first two acts of the film are a little slow as the story is set up and you learn about the three main characters, but when the third act hits you're pushed along on a tidal wave of emotion to the very end, where (depending on your personality) you may well emerge as a sobbing wreck.
Despite myself and my British stiff upper lip, I cried..... I cried more than once..... Ok, I cried about four or five times..... In all honesty at one point I wept like a school girl. I let myself be taken over by the film and thanks to the director there were no cheap tricks or obvious plot twists to knock me out of my emotional state. If you enjoy being manipulated by melodramatic movies, then this will be right up your street, but if you don't care for tragic romance then steer well clear.
You can find screening information over at The Hub of Sparkle. More than Blue is being shown with English subtitles in Myeong-dong, Ansan and Busan.
By the way, if you plan on seeing the movie avoid the trailer and 이승철's music videos as they are spoiler-filled....