A Man and A Woman movie review

Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: ★★★

Side Dish: If you find yourself in Finland on February 14, stuck in a cabin with Gong Yoo, avoid giving in to your base desires. Try cooking pork cheek stewed in porter with celeriac puree. Recipe courtesy of Food from Finland.

Sang Min (Jeon Do Yeon) and Ki Hong (Gong Yoo) are two Koreans living in Finland for the sake of their special needs children. They meet when their children go on an overnight camping trip, and end up getting intimate in a sauna.

Months later, Sang Min is back in Korea, and Ki Hong tracks her down. Ki Hong struggles with his unstable wife and daughter while Sang Min juggles her busy career with caring for her autistic son without much support from her husband. Ki Hong seems eager to reconnect, whereas Sang Min is more cautious, but it is only a matter of time before she needs to find an outlet for her stress.

Though the film title gives equal weight to the male and female leads, the film hinges on Sang Min; her decisions and emotions are what drive the plot. Ki Hong’s transition from cold and proper to seemingly love struck after sleeping with Sang Min is harder to believe. Plus, he is so repressed in Finland then subdued in Korea that he hardly feels like an equal partner in the affair.

I will admit that I sought out this film to see Gong Yoo get his kit off. Unfortunately, the passion between him and Jeon Do Yeon fails to materialize in spite of the intimate sex scenes. Gong Yoo is saddled with playing the straight man in this relationship, and we do not get to see as much of his character’s range of emotions as Sang Min’s. Sang Min is designated as the film’s emotional core, and Jeon Do Yeon does an admirable job giving the character depth and dignity so that her surrender to her desires is not a foregone conclusion.

Ultimately, Jeon Do Yeon’s performance and the beautiful visuals are the strengths of an otherwise unremarkable melodrama. If A Man and A Woman serves a purpose, it is in proving that Gong Yoo without his charm and intensity is hardly the Gong Yoo we love.

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