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A Moment to Remember
  |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |



Notes:
• This review is based on the fabulous Theatrical Cut of A Moment to Remember. What that means is a mystery waiting to be solved.


Availability:

DVD (KOREA)
Region 3 NTSC
CJ Entertainment
2-Disc Set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean subtitles
Theatrical Version (117 mins.)
Director's Version (138 mins)
Audio Commentary, "Making of" featurette, Teaser, TV Spot, Music Video, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, Various extras
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Asia Video
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English subtitles

 
Korean: 내 머리 속의 지우개
Year: 2004
Director: John H. Lee
Cast: Jung Woo-Sung, Son Ye-Jin, Baek Jong-Hak
The Skinny: Loaded melodrama is glossy, yet well-told and engaging. However, after about ninety minutes the inconsistencies, implausibilities, and saccharine conceits start piling up. This film does prove to be memorable, but your reasons—and your mileage—could vary.

Review
by Kozo:

There needs to be a special section of your video store for the Asian terminal illness tearjerker. In the nineties, Hong Kong owned all with its variety of due-to-die protagonists, but now Korea is the go-to territory for movies about people with debilitating health problems. Leukemia, brain cancer, and other assorted maladies have wreaked havoc on the region, but A Moment to Remember trumps them all. In this recent melodrama, heroine Kim Soo-Jin (impossibly pretty Son Ye-Jin) contracts—are you ready for this—Alzheimer's Disease! Yes, a disease usually reserved for the ailing elderly has now been bestowed upon a twenty-seven year-old girl, who's not only beautiful but also recently married. Her husband, Choi Chol-Soo (Jung Woo-Sung), is an impossibly tough man-among-men, who now must deal with the heartrending plight of his honey's health going to Hell. Get your handkerchiefs, or industrial strength paper towels, ready.

Kim Soo-Jin and Choi Chol-Soo meet in glorious cinema style. She's just been stood up by her married boyfriend, while he's a manly mofo who bumps into her at the Family Mart. Immediate sparks are struck, but a flame doesn't build until she finds out that the dude is a foreman for her father's construction business. Chol-Soo is temperamental and oh-so-manly. He's rude and brusque, but usually with a sense of righteousness that's worthy of Chow Yun-Fat. His brief brushes with the adorably feminine Kim Soo-Jin are sure to get females swooning, but they should go crazy when he decks a motorcycle-riding mugger with the door of his jeep. The man meets metal incident totals Chol-Soo's windshield, but he valiantly drives Soo-Jin home while wearing safety goggles to keep out the wind. To prevent wind burn on Soo-Jin's delicate features, he gives her a welding mask, which she daintily wears. Wow, it's romantic, funny, and blithely ridiculous all at once! Somebody call the loaded romantic cinema police!

To be fair, A Moment to Remember is engaging enough for what it is. The courtship of the two photogenic stars is straight out of a screenwriting handbook, and the characters are both cinema-worthy and incredibly contrived. Still, they chose the right chapters of the screenwriting guide to crib from, and the stars make their characters exceptionally engaging. Son Ye-Jin is a remarkably facile young actress, who gives felt emotion to her character's varying emotional states, and can even sell a line like, "There's an eraser in my head," which she utters upon the revelation of her fading memory. Jung Woo-Sung may look like a hunky Asian version of Peter Brady, but he's a likable manly lunk whose biggest detriment is that he comes from fantasyland. Ladies, get this straight: guys like Choi Chol-Soo DO NOT exist in real life. You'd have a better chance of finding Bigfoot than a sensitive, loving, and yet utterly righteous dude like Choi Chol-Soo. Give Jung Woo-Sung credit; he sells the character, and manages to carry A Moment to Remember's maudlin extremes. If this is a good movie, then the stars are half of it.

There's more, though. True to current Korean filmmaking, A Moment to Remember is glossy and well-told. And even though a twenty-seven year-old contracting Alzheimer's Disease is incredibly unlikely, it is possible. The actual frequency of that happening is right up there with the likelihood of a fair Presidential election, but it's not out of the realm of metaphysical possibility. The knowledge that it's going to happen makes the characters' lives especially engaging. The filmmakers milk the atmosphere and bittersweet anticipation for all its worth; director John H. Lee manages to affect with slow, thoughtful storytelling and an appreciable dependence on his stars. The two meet and encounter the slings and arrows of cinema romance (Soo-Jin's dad disapproves! Chol-Soo's mom abandoned him! The crying has flooded the theater!), but sooner or later, a three-ton tearjerker freight train will smack this perfect couple with all the hackneyed screenwriting strength it can muster. Little hints are dropped from minute one. Dad says to Soo-Jin, "Being able to forget easily is a gift," and Soo-Jin keeps forgetting little things with oh-so-cute facial expressions. Too bad it's not just her character's fussy cuteness that causes her to forget her keys. Nope, she contracts Alzheimer's Disease. Then...IT ALL GOES TO HELL!

Unfortunately, that statement applies not only to the sad realization of her fate. The moments leading to, and shortly after the revelation hits make for some compelling, if predictably loaded cinematic excess. After that, it moves from cinematic excess to just plain excessive. A pivotal scene occurs where Chol-Soo loses his innate decency and turns on the hot-blooded man meter, leading to a bloody confrontation that's laughably contrived. Even more contrived is the bittersweet ending, which is saccharine and over-the-top manipulative. It almost seems as if the filmmakers had no idea how to end the film, and tried to create hope where there essentially was none. Their efforts are appreciated, but the film never really becomes about anything more than its superficial sadness. Real life or real emotions never seep to the surface, so all we have left is something that appears beautiful because that's what the filmmakers wanted. What is A Moment to Remember really about? Forgiveness? Family? The realization of what loving a person really means? Or is it simply about jerking the audience around until the movie theater issues a flood warning from all the excessive crying? I don't have a definite answer, but personally, I think it's that last one. (Kozo 2005)


 
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