Film Review: Christmas in August

by Celeste Heiter, Dec 28, 2009 | Destinations: Korea, S
Christmas in August

Christmas in August

Christmas in August

It's a case of star-crossed lovers in this enigmatic romance, in which Jung-won Yoo, a young portrait photographer and shop owner, finds himself in a budding relationship with one of his customers shortly after learning that he is terminally ill. However, Jung-won has chosen not to reveal his illness to anyone except his immediate family and continues to live his life as usual.

Jung-won's romance begins when Da-rim, a charming young traffic officer, comes into his shop in need of a quick print-out of a batch of photos. Jung-won is only too happy to oblige, and even shares a popsicle with her while they wait for the processing machine to finish. Over the next few weeks, Da-rim becomes a frequent patron of Jung-won's photo shop, and with each visit, their conversations are increasingly familiar and intimate. However, because of his tragic circumstances, Jung-won manages to keep her at arm's length without defensively rejecting her or revealing his secret. And although his evasive secrecy is well-intentioned, it only causes confusion as Da-rim tries her best to make her romantic desires apparent to Jung-won without appearing obtuse.

On quiet evenings at home, Jung-won comes to terms with his impending death. Much of his time is spent preparing his aging father to survive on his own, and struggling with his feelings of angst. But in his darkest moments, fear and grief overwhelm him.

Directed by Jin-ho Hur, Christmas in August is a paradox of love and death. And amid the tenuous fragility of a Jung-won's relationship with Da-rim, their dialogue is more about what's not being said, the untold truths that resonate between the lines. Ordinary moments are imbued with irony and poignancy, and Jung-won's transition from life to death is one of the most seamlessly subtle moments in cinematic history. And although there is no mention of Christmas at any time throughout film, by the time the credits roll, the significance of the title will become crystal clear. Most excellent.

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