Review: War movie is charming but not original

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Review: War movie is charming but not original

A key component of a good movie is originality.

Critics love new attempts and the public craves something to be shocked about.

In that sense, “A Melody to Remember,” a local war movie directed by Lee Han, a specialist in human dramas known for “Elegant Lies” and “Punch,” is hugely disappointing.

Under the penetrating anti-war theme, the film captures the rare happy moments during the devastation of the Korean War (1950-53), which is a “been there done that” formula of any war movie.

When a choir made up of war orphans appears, you may roll your eyes thinking, “Not another tearjerker.”

Fortunately, the film has a good heart throughout. Unlike other heart-wrenching films that seems to have the sole objective of making people cry, this one stays true to its initiative of showing how bad the war was.

The film kicks off with a bereaved soldier, Han Sang-ryeol (Yim Si-wan), being assigned to a troop in a relatively safe area of Busan, where he comes across a group of orphans being taken care of by a good-hearted volunteer, Ju-mi (Ko A-sung).

Not wishing to repeat the nightmare of losing loved ones, Sang-ryeol teams up with Ju-mi to help create a children choir which eventually becomes a second family for the children as well as the teachers.

However, as the young ones start to slowly recover from the trauma, an order comes in to send the kids to perform in a region still at war. In the meantime, a crooked man who once was a soldier tries to exploit the kids by forcing them to beg and steal, in return for shelter and food.

When the film shows one of the orphans naively cracking open a stolen explosive to retrieve the copper inside and then being blown up, the movie’s intention becomes clear: War is terrible.

But one cannot deny that the film lacks direction when the main antagonist - the crooked man - turns out to be another victim of the war. Without a proper good versus evil conflict, the film ends up feeling banal.

Meanwhile, singer-turned-actor Yim is a hidden gem of this film. The 28-year-old, who has gradually developed his acting skills, has finally blossomed in this film in his first lead role.

The film opened nationwide Jan. 21.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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