"How can he remember everything, yet forget about the money?"
Hee-soo (Jeon Do-yeon) arrives at a Seoul horse-racing track in search of her ex-boyfriend, Byung-woo (Ha Jung-woo). On finding him, she totally side-steps his repeated attempts at pleasantries and, with equal amounts of anger, bitterness and resentment, demands that he repay $3,500 which he borrowed from her over a year ago. Of course, Byung-woo doesn't have the money, but assures her that he can get it and promises to wire it into her bank account within a couple of days.
However, convinced that Byung-woo will abscond if she lets him out of her sight, Hee-soo refuses to accept anything but immediate payment and insists on accompanying him as he endeavours to borrow the cash from a number of people - all of whom are women...
Though Hee-soo and Byung-woo's travels around Seoul form the hub of the storyline in My Dear Enemy, the film is much more character study than "road movie" and the journey which each of them takes is as much psychological as it is physical - especially in the case of Hee-soo. Though we are only given tantalising snippets of the circumstances which have pushed Hee-soo to finally seek out Byung-woo again, her unhappiness is written all over her face - with the subtlest of glances from Jeon Do-yeon speaking volumes without a single word needing to be spoken - and there is a palpable sense of desperation in her every word, gesture and action.
From the earliest stages of the film it is also blatantly clear that she is well aware of Byung-woo's charm and popularity "with the ladies", but is grimly determined not to let him get under her skin again - with a strong implication given that she, initially, believes a good deal of her current problems have stemmed from trusting him in the past. However, as she repeatedly watches his interactions with the various women they visit, she is forced to see him more as they do and her perceptions cannot fail to be affected, and gradually altered, as a direct result.
The journey also serves as a commentary on the differences in the lives of the "haves" and "have nots" in Korean (and, in fact, any) society and the idea that outlook on life, and how we choose to live, both play as much of a role in a person's happiness as circumstances (financial and otherwise) do, is repeatedly referenced throughout:
Though Byung-woo has absolutely nothing (being homeless and having no money, or prospects, whatsoever), of all the characters in My Dear Enemy he is easily the happiest and this is shown to be as a direct result of his willingness to help others in need, his optimistic and simplistic outlook on life, and the large number of friends he has who truly care about him.
In short, though his life is materially empty, it is spiritually rich and that, in itself, brings him far more contentment than anything money can buy.
My Dear Enemy perfectly straddles the line between drama and romantic comedy - containing elements from each but remaining refreshingly different from either. Director Lee Yoon-ki (who also directed Ad Lib Night and This Charming Girl) is known for his ability to add layer upon layer to seemingly simple scenes and his work in My Dear Enemy is no exception. By ensuring that either Hee-soo or Byung-woo are always clearly in frame, our ability to see their (often incredibly subtle) reactions to passing comments, and the smallest of actions, results in every scene being totally gripping, with our perceptions of the unfolding drama changing in tandem with the main characters' perceptions of each other.
The humour present is never pushed or overplayed and is largely derived from empathy elicited for the incredibly likeable and well written main characters. Of Course, the success of this approach is dependent on the ability of both the director and cast, and thankfully all involved perform exquisitely - beautifully complimenting each other throughout.
Jeon Do-yeon is incredibly discerning in her choice of projects and this, combined with her prodigious acting talent, means that any film with which she chooses to be associated is necessary viewing for all fans of South Korean cinema. Her performance in My Dear Enemy once more shows why she has won so many awards in her career - an utterly faultless, nuanced and passionate portrayal.
It could be said that Ha Jung-woo, as Byung-woo, has the most difficult role to play in My Dear Enemy, being required to give a performance with subtlety equalling that of Jeon Do-yeon's, while portraying a character of outward charm and confidence. He does so almost effortlessly and the noticeable chemistry between himself and Jeon Do-yeon adds yet more believability to both their portrayals.
Initially appearing to be a quirky "road movie", My Dear Enemy ultimately proves itself to be an uplifting and multi-layered character study.
An engaging and gently gripping film from beginning to end...
edition reviewed here is the Korean (Region 3) release from Premier Entertainment. The film itself is
provided as an anamorphic transfer with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and there are no image artifacts or ghosting present. Colours are bright and clear, with darks uniform throughout.
The original Korean
language soundtrack is provided as a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 and is well balanced throughout.
Excellent subtitles are provided
throughout the main feature but English-speaking viewers should note that, as with many Korean DVD releases, there are no subtitles available on any of the extras.
• Director: Lee Yoon-ki
• Format: NTSC,
Anamorphic, Widescreen, Subtitled
• Language: Korean
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
• Region: Region 3
• Aspect Ratio:
• Number of discs: 1
•Studio: Premier Entertainment
· Audio Commentary by Lee Yoon-ki, Ha Jung-woo, and Jeon Do-yeon
· Production Notes
· Cast Interview
· Poster Shoot