Review by Luke Carberry
Indie director Yoon-ki Lee returns after the critically acclaimed Ad Lib Night with former Cannes winner (Best Actress) Do-yeon Jeon and rising star Jung-woo Ha (The Chaser). With two of South Korea’s most talented performers in his hands, Yoon-ki Lee sets about creating a drama driven road movie in the simplest of forms, in My Dear Enemy.
One day Byoung-woon (Jung-woo Ha) is approached by Hee-soo (Do-yeon Jeon), a woman from his past who has shown up to retrieve $3,500 he still owes her. Claiming he doesn’t have the money on him and excited by the opportunity to catch up with a past flame, Byoung-woon asks Hee-soo to accompany him as he travels around Seoul borrowing more money in order to pay her back. Reluctant but determined, Hee-soo agrees, and as they begin to spend their day together old wounds are reopened.
My Dear Enemy is a film which attempts the always difficult - proving that less is more. Having said that, based on the success of his previous work it’s fair to say that Yoon-Ki Lee has a knack for this style of filmmaking. With that being the case, it’s no surprise that the film is another effective stab from the director at bringing a simple premise to life.
On the surface My Dear Enemy may appear to be yet another South Korean drama dealing with power struggles between men and women in a slightly hip and blasé manner. However, what bubbles deep beneath is a stark and frank look at the human psyche, and how it deals with aspirations which may not always be in reach. While the dialogue itself might not always lead to this topic being broached directly by the characters, the long gaps and awkward silences allow the viewer to fill in the intentional blanks. It’s all about subtext and reading between the lines, just like real life, and it’s in being constantly reserved that My Dear Enemy’s realism truly shines through.
My Dear Enemy is essentially a road movie, be it on a rather small scale. It’s by no means epic, as there aren’t any long highways, the leads aren’t hopping from city to city, and there isn’t an ever increasing number of eccentric characters being introduced in order to lighten things up. Hee-soo and Byoung-woon never plan on spending the entire day together, but as they go from person to person borrowing money the time inevitably ticks away. Because of this you might expect a film in which two people simply drive around asking for favours to become repetitive or stilted, especially seeing as there are no out of the blue shenanigans or surreal occurrences thrown in, but it’s because of the film’s essential lead performances that this never becomes the case. Both Do-yeon Jeon and Jung-woo Ha are on top form. Do-yeon Jeon’s cold exterior and tight lipped presence lends itself perfectly to the film’s many quiet moments, in which Jung-woo Ha excels at bringing up past tiffs between the couple, in turn producing more arguments which help to gradually develop character and reveal intricacies between them. The slow pace at which both of the stars operate lends a sense of intrigue to the proceedings and means there is a reason to continue following these two along their journey, as you are forever wondering where they will end up.
My Dear Enemy has an open beginning and an open ending, between those two points lies a puzzle waiting to be pieced together. Who are these people? How do they know each other? What will happen once the day ends? The film won’t answer these questions for you, you’ll be left to draw your own conclusions instead. That’s what makes Yoon-ki Lee’s latest picture worthwhile - it’s never black or white, unpredictability is the name of the game, which makes it both a challenging and rewarding experience.
Director: Yoon-ki Lee
Writer: Asuko Taira
Producers: Seong-kyu Jo, Kwang-hee Jo, Jeong-wan Oh, Dong-ho Lee
Starring: Do-yeon Jeon, Jung-woo Ha
Year of Release: 2008
Country: South Korea
September 12, 2009, 7:16pm Comments