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You Are My Sunshine
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Jeon Do-Yeon and Hwang Jun-Min in You Are My Sunshine.

Year: 2005
Director: Park Jin-Pyo
Producer: Oh Jeong-Wan
Cast: Jeon Do-Yeon, Hwang Jung-Min, Na Moon-Hee, Ryu Seung-Soo, Jeong Yu-Seok, Seo Ju-Hee, Yun Jae-Moon
The Skinny: A farmer tries to win the heart of a pretty waitress, but finds more than he bargained for in this top-notch melodrama. Half romantic comedy and half tearjerker, You Are My Sunshine gives new meaning to LoveHKFilm.com's pet phrase, "IT ALL GOES TO HELL." But not necessarily in a bad way.
  Review by Calvin McMillin:

     Melodrama may be the bread-and-butter genre in Korean cinema, but Park Jin-Pyo's You Are My Sunshine is anything but typical in this respect. Films and television dramas that abound in emotional excess are often critically derided, yet this 2005 film was nominated for Best Picture and several other honors at the 26th Blue Dragon Awards and even earned the director and the film's lead actor top prizes in their individual categories. On paper, You Are My Sunshine certainly seems to share most of the ingredients of a conventional melodrama, so what could possibly make it so special?
     The film centers on Seok-Joong (Hwang Jung-Min), an unmarried farmer who's pushing forty and looking to finally settle down. Although he signs up for a deal that would have gotten him a bride from the Philippines, Seok-Joong doesn't follow through on the scheme, deciding instead to wait around for Ms. Right to show up. And sure enough, show up she does, as Seok-Joong meets her in the form of Eun-Ha (Jeon Do-Yeon), a pretty waitress at a local coffee shop. However, Eun Ha isn't just any waitress; it turns out she provides more services than just coffee to her happy customers. Really, whoever heard of home delivery for coffee? Even Starbucks hasn't jumped on that idea yet.
     But her illicit profession means little to Seok-Joong; he's smitten at first sight by Eun-Ha and begins giving her roses and a bottle or two of fresh milk everyday to show his affection. Eun Ha is half-amused, half-annoyed at the man's awkward, childlike way of wooing her, but as the story develops, she begins to see something in Seok-Joong. It's something she'd lost hope in seeing in any man, but it's there, and as she soon finds, it's something worth pursuing.
     And so, for the first sixty minutes of its running time, You Are My Sunshine delivers a genuinely funny, intensely likeable romantic comedy as an unconventional romance begins to take shape and the unlikely couple work to overcome the objections of Seok-Joong's meddling mother, his peers, and society in general. If director Park Jin-Pyo had chosen to add twenty more minutes to this section of the film, he would have made a solid, if somewhat unremarkable crowdpleaser. But that is clearly not what director Park had in mind, since there's still another half of the story to tell. And what a second half!
     Exactly one hour into the film, Eun-Ha receives a phone call form a figure in her past that immediately sets off a shocking (and graphic) chain of events. To put it simply: IT ALL GOES TO HELL. While this dramatic switch will seem incongruous with the tone of all that came before, the film has played fair with the viewer, slowly setting things up the entire time. Although the film's trailer and accompanying press materials spoil the film's major plot point, this review will try to be somewhat evasive about specifics. What will be revealed here, however, is that You Are My Sunshine becomes, among other things, a terminal illness tearjerker, yet remarkably, it isn't carried out in an exploitive "disease-of-the-week" sort of way as has been seen in other, lesser melodramas.
     Are emotions running on high throughout the latter half of the film? You bet. And while this reviewer still finds a lot of that kind of stuff unseemly, if not ridiculous in any context, You Are My Sunshine minimizes that criticism by making sure that the world depicted in the film is one that is steeped as deeply as possible in reality. Unlike the problems introduced in other melodramas that feel contrived, if not downright fake, You Are My Sunshine proves successful in convincing the audience that these issues are the real conditions under which the film's characters must act and react. Also, it doesn't hurt that the movie's first half and the actors' performances within it go a long way in hooking the viewer and fostering a sense of good will towards the characters. Sure, the film's dramatic turn feels like a huge suckerpunch considering its earlier, happier tone, but co-stars Hwang Jung-Min and Jeon Do-Yeon help the film make its transition to all-out melodrama. In addition, Na Moon-Hee (from My Lovely Sam-Soon) adds a welcome extra dimension to her role as Seok-Joong's mother, a performance which could easily have been yet another one-note portrayal of a disapproving matriarch we've seen time and again in these types of stories.
     Ultimately, You Are My Sunshine may indeed have much in common with the numerous melodramas that populate the market. But what separates this film from the pack is that it never feels like it's yet another "by-the-numbers" take on a well-worn genre. Although this reviewer has never cried nor wishes to in response to any Korean melodrama, I can say that it's not hard to see how You Are My Sunshine could have that affect on audiences. Yes, it tugs on the heartstrings, but for the most part, the film earns it, delivering a genuinely compelling storyline that's hard to pass up. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)

Awards:

26th Blue Dragon Awards
• Winner - Best Director (Park Jin-Pyo)
• Winner - Best Actor (Hwang Jun-Min)
• Winner - Best Couple (Jeon Do-Yeon and Hwang Jun-Min)
• Nomination - Best Picture
• Nomination - Best Actress (Jeon Do-Yeon)
• Nomination - Best Supporting Actress (Na Moon-Hee)
• Nomination - Best Original Screenplay (Park Jin-Pyo)

Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
CJ Entertainment
2-Disc DTS Limited Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Audio Commentary by Park Jin-Pyo, "Making Of" Documentary, Interviews, Music Videos, Posters, Trailers, and More

   
 
 
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