Il Mare


"...I've watched enough Star Trek to know that you don't take the space-time continuum for granted!"

- Equinox21

Il Mare (2000)

AKA: Il Mare: A Love Story

Director: Lee Hyeon-Seung

Producer: Cha Seung-Jae

Writer: Lee Hyeon-Seung

Cast: Lee Jeong-Jae, Jeon Ji-Hyeon

Running Time: 90 min.

Plot: Two reclusive romantics, Song-hyun (Lee Jong-jae) and Eun-ju (Chun Chi-hyun) live in the same house at different points in time. They discover that they can communicate in real time by placing letters in a magic mail box. Between past, present, and future, the two begin a romance that may never be in the same time. 

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OWLMAN'S REVIEW: Have you ever wondered what you would do if you discovered a device for time travel? Would you use it to discover what future lies ahead of you? Or would you use it to make changes in the past? Or better yet, would you use it to gain riches beyond anything you've ever imagined?

Well, Il Mare doesn't really get into that. Instead, the time travel device (a mailbox at a seaside home dubbed Il Mare) becomes a communication avenue for two people separated by a difference of two years - Sung-Hyun (Lee Jung-Jae) in 1998 and Eun-Ju (Jeon Ji-Hyun) in 2000. They start exchanging letters to each other over a period of time and begin to develop a close friendship. While Sung-Hyun begins to develop romantic feelings for Eun-Ju, he is hampered obviously by the time difference (evident by the fact that Eun-Ju of 1998 has no idea who he is) but also by the fact that Eun-Ju of 2000 still pines for an old flame.

With the rich cinematography and lovely shots of the seaside, Il Mare is certainly a beautiful looking film. The budding romance story is also well done and the two leads certainly have good chemistry, even with the challenge of rarely sharing any scenes together. Jeon Ji-Hyun is radiant throughout the movie.

However, there are two things that bother me about the movie.

One is the plausibility of the whole time travel concept used here. Let me put it this way - I was raised on watching Star Trek and the concept of time-space continuum used there. In Il Mare, the ending should never have worked under that framework. Don't get me wrong - I thought it was a nice way to wrap up the movie ("I'm going to tell you a story...") but I started riffing to my wife about how it couldn't possibly work. She, of course, rolled her eyes and told me to shut the fuck up.

Secondly, I find the soundtrack irritating. They keep playing the same piano melody over and over again - it does nothing but remind me of that wedding chestnut "All My Life" by K-Ci and JoJo. Given that I HATE HATE HATE that song, you can only imagine how much I can't stand the soundtrack to Il Mare. All those who say that they enjoyed the soundtrack need to get their heads checked.

In conclusion, Il Mare is a fine film hampered only by my tendency to be a geek about time travel and overly critical of lousy music.


ALEXANDER'S REVIEW: I loved this movie. Loved nearly everything about it. I loved the score...the first I've actually enjoyed in an Asian movie. I loved the performances. Both Jeon Ji-hyun ("My Sassy Girl") and Li Jung-jae are stellar. I loved the cinematography and locales ( I never imagined the Korean coast would be so gorgeous). I loved the film's deft juggling of drama, wit and tragedy. I loved the plot (I spent the entire film wondering what was going to happen to our protagonists). And, I loved that I loved this movie.  After a year-long break from Asian cinema, and a recent slew of mediocre and over-hyped Korean films ("Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" and "My Sassy Girl," namely), I've finally, FINALLY found a film worth watching again and recommending. It's that good, and ranks up there with "Chungking Express," "Comrades, Almost a Love Story," "Metade
Fumaca" and "Portland Street Blues" as the best in Asian drama.

But, if there were a mailbox -- like the one in "Il Mare" -- in front of MY house that let ME send things to someone who was living two years in the past, I would put in the box the following items:

  • A newspaper. For obvious reasons. Lotto numbers, sports scores, race results and...
  •, which would make Friend From the Past eerily prescient and the most popular person at parties. 
  • A fly. Like in the movie, "The Fly." Just to see what would happen.
  • A People magazine with Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes on the cover. Just to fuck with people's minds.  ("Wait, the girl from "Dawson's Creek"? And TOM CRUISE? No fucking way.")
  • A Photoshopped picture of Tokyo being decimated by Godzilla on the cover of the New York Times with a huge banner headline reading, "Giant Lizard Kills Thousands!" Y'know, as a joke.
  • A fake obituary of Friend From the Past with something about her being mauled by...sharks. Great white sharks. Or bears. (Because I'm mean.)
But anyway.

The premise is, admittedly, a bit goofy and there are a few holes to be poked in the plot, but ultimately, "Il Mare" is one great film.

Highly recommended.


EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: See this movie for one reason alone, Jeon Ji-hyun! The movie itself is excellent, but the real reason to see this one is for everyone's favorite Sassy Girl. Though she obviously plays a completely different role in this movie, she's still a treat to watch. This is a light romance/drama movie, and not a romantic comedy.

The story starts off with Kim Eun-joo (Jeon Ji-hyun) moving out of her architecturally unique house on the sea, called, appropriately enough, Il Mare (Italian for "The Sea"). It is Christmas time, 1999. Upon leaving the house, she drops a Christmas card in the letterbox for the next resident of the house; in it is a request to forward her mail to her new apartment as she is expecting an important letter from America. After this, Han Sung-hyun (Lee Jung-jae) moves into the house and finds the card awaiting him. The card's request causes his some confusion as he is the first resident of the newly completed house, and it is actually Christmas time, 1997. What follows is a relationship that develops through letters (and other miscellaneous items) being deposited into the letterbox and appearing in the other time period.

Spoilers: When Eun-joo finally gets the letter she was expecting from America, she is heart broken. It turns out that the letter she sent was returned, as she didn't include a complete address. What she was expecting was a letter from her ex-boyfriend who left South Korea to study illustration in America, and wanted her to join him. She chose not to go with him in order to stay in Korea and start up her own career of doing voice acting, thus ending their relationship. When she cannot bear it anymore, she sends a letter back in time to Sung-hyun to ask his help in stopping her boyfriend from leaving her for studying abroad. The ending is excellent, and takes a few minutes to grasp because of the space-time continuum alterations that have been made (and I've watched enough Star Trek to know that you don't take the space-time continuum for granted!).

This is a great romantic movie. It's quite refreshingly unique to see the relationship develop the way it did, with two people who were it different time periods. Aside from the incredible idea of the time warp letterbox (which the characters seem to completely accept with no questions), it's thoroughly enjoyable to watch. The letterbox is just a new and unique way of introducing two people and having them start a relationship. Now, maybe Korea doesn't have a lottery, but I can tell you that's the first thing I'd send back in time, a list of winning lotto numbers! Also, the puppy is really, really cute! Thankfully, Hollywood has just bought the remake rights and are not going to be butchering this version, instead making their own (probably) abysmal version (thus reinforcing the idea that they're completely out of their OWN original ideas!).