Christmas in August
"It's one of those films that make you recognize the quality of your life a little more."
- Mighty Peking Man
Christmas in August (1998)
AKA: Palwolyui Christmas
Director: Hur Jin-Ho
Producer: Cha Seung-Jae
Cast: Han Seok-Kyu, Shim Eun-Ha, Shin Ku, Oh Ji-Hye, Lee Han-Wi, Jeon Mi-Seon, Kwon Hye-Won, Sohn Se-Kwang, Choi Seon-Jung, Kim Ae-Ra, Min Kyeong-Jin, Lee Yong-Nyeo
Running Time: 97 mins.
Plot: This film explores how Jung Wong chooses to spend the last days of his life. He chooses to stay in his little photo shop. Everyday, different customers walk in and he, never one to speak much, just stands behind his counter and watches calmly. His life goes on as if it were a dream.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: Jung Wong (Han Seok-Kyu) is a thirty-something single guy. He runs a small, but active, photo lab that he operates all by himself. He's good at what he does and enjoys it as if it were his most respectable hobby. When Jung Wong isn't working at the lab, he spends most of his leisure time alone, doing things like day-dreaming, lounging and sleeping - which he openly jokes about. Jung Wong is a joyful man who is very down-to-earth. He's always smiling, laughing and being extra gentle to everyone he encounters. Sometimes, he doesn't even charge people for his photo services out of the kindness of his heart.
However, there's a darkside to Jung Wong's life that people, other than his sister and dad, are not aware of. He has a serious illness and recent visits to the health clinic hints that his time is is almost up, in fact, it's just days away. What's really ashamed is that he has a new customer named Darim, a lovely meter-maid, who he gains an immediate interest in. After numerous visits to his photo lab, she also develops her own kind of attraction towards him. The two grow a little closer to each other as they start to go on friendly dates that include sharing ice cream and taking long, romantic walks on rainy days. Because of Darim, Jung Wong may be at the peak of happiness - but things start to go awry for him as he puts the reality of his serious illness between them.
Not only does his illness affect the relationship with Darim (Shim Eun-ha), but it also affects his relationship with his father, sister and old friends. At one point, Jung Wong is teaching his father how to use a VCR. Because of his father's old age, he can't grasp his directions - even after numerous explanations. Unable to tolerate his father's ability to learn, Jung Wong loses his patience, yells at his father and walks off. The next scene has Jung Wong writing detailed instructions on how to operate a VCR on a large piece of cardboard. The fact is, Jung Wong didn't actually lose patience towards his father. He was reacting to the fact that his life is going to end soon, and he's not going to be around to help him with simple things like 'working a VCR'. He soon does the same with his equipment at his photo lab, which he knows someone may take over when his time comes.
As I write this review, my feelings for this movie have grown to a more positive side. Not only did I have a better understanding for the 'moral' (if any) of the film, but I realized my appreciation for it as I was putting it in writing. The truth is, when the film ended the night I watched it, I had mixed feelings. In fact, I nearly hated it. It's definitely a slow-paced film and there aren't too many scenes that get your attention, but for the very few that do, they grab your heart. It's one of those films that make you recognize the quality of your life a little more. It also makes you more grateful for not having health problems while something very important is going on in life, like falling in love. And that's what "Christmas in August" is, a love story.
Fine performances by Han Seok-Kyu ("Shiri" and "No. 3") and Shim Eun-ha ("Art Museum by the Zoo" and "Interview"). They both would re-team a year later in the Chang Yoon-hyun's thriller "Tell Me Something".
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 7.5/10