Don't Waste Your Tears Over This PairAristotle said that catharsis is best attained through tragedy and director Han Ji-seung seems acutely aware of this in his new film "Haru" (A Day). In today's climate of economic uncertainty and growing disillusionment with national politics, Koreans are ready for an escape, which Mr. Han has unfortunately delivered here in an overly sentimental and clumsy film.
Seok-youn (Lee Sung-jae) and Jin-won (Ko So-young) are a seemingly perfect couple whose life together appears to be flawless. Beneath the exterior of bliss, however, lies one major problem: they have repeatedly failed in their attempts to have a child. For Jin-won, who is hung up on becoming a mother because of her own gloomy childhood without parents, life has become unbearable.
Just as the couple are about to give up, they decide to give it one last try, and succeed. However, it wouldn't be a tragic film if this bliss continued and so the director does not let them have their dreamy happiness for long. They receive the inevitable sad tidings: their long-awaited baby has a very serious condition with an appropriately pedantic medical name, anencephalia, which means being born without a brain. Naturally, the miserable couple are immensely distressed. They finally overcome their grief and let the baby sleep forever in peace.
Reaction to this film may be roughly divided into two categories. The first consists of the sentimental who have been waiting for this kind of sad stuff. They feel that they have found the right flick to move them to tears and deliver them from the stress-filled reality. The film provides many chances to have a good cry, such as the soliloquy of the lamenting mother who has to watch as her baby dies within a day of its birth. As a member of the audience, Jeon Kyoung-sik, said, "This movie was what I was looking for. It was so sad that I could not help crying all through it."
In the second group are those who are sensitive to detail and don't really fall for blatant emotional manipulation. For them this film is nothing but a waste of time and money. It can even be annoying for those who recognize the elaborately planned and artificial strategy of the director to move people into shedding their tears. Everything in the film seems fake, with numerous overdone "ready to make you lament" moments. The central idea of the film, the couple's tragedy, happens too suddenly and without preparation. Within minutes of being delivered from being childless, they are told of the inevitable death of their unborn offspring. The director is so engaged in squeezing people's tears that he seems to be trying to quickly get to a good sad part without providing the groundwork for it. Perhaps it was the director's intention but that just shows how utterly maudlin the whole idea and execution of this film are.
There are more disagreeable things to be found. At the start, the wife says "Why do I have to suffer such a misfortune?" to her husband when he insists on adopting a child. Is adopting a baby so disastrous that it must be stigmatized as a misfortune? Though the story ends with the dreaded adoption, it is hard to not get irritated with the lack of consideration for such a sensitive issue.
On a less serious note which illustrates the clumsy execution of the film, is the presence of the extra who wore a brown overcoat and carried a red bag. It was careless of the director to have her appear twice within three minutes in a wholly different settings.
This kind of sad movie can be very touching and the theater was filled with sniffs and sobs. At the same time, for those who are fed up with oozing tears, this film is nothing but boring.
by Chun Su-jin