My Dear Enemy
Our column “Gone Unseen” is dedicated to those great films that many people have overlooked and or have found trouble finding distribution across the globe.
Directed by Lee Yoon-ki
Furthering a developing hypothesis that South Koreans are launching a charm offensive against all hallowed Western film archetypes, the splendid My Dear Enemy, a spiritual kin to last year’s Adrift in Tokyo (from Japan), contains elements of the road movie, the romantic comedy, and Woody Allen-style light observational humor, yet kowtows to the conventions of none of those.
So, yes, we do get what seems to be a typical “opposites attract” scenario, with its ex-lovers (Jeon Do-yeon and Ha Jung-woo) finding themselves on an extended tour of Seoul in order to settle an old debt. Where Do-yeon’s Hee-su is outwardly cold, temperamental and unsentimental, Jung-woo’s Byung-woon is endlessly charming and accommodating. This creates a protracted tug-of-war, wherein Hee-su tries to push herself as far away as possible, and Byung-woon simply finds new ways to try and put her at ease, all the while inauspiciously putting out his own fires.
Low-key dynamics like these need a sure directorial hand to not bore viewers to tears, and luckily Yoon-ki seems to understand this principle, peppering the film with unique framing, and casual-not-showy long takes.Do-yeon and Jung-woo are both consistently strong, with Do-yeon concealing nearly every expected emotional response, but finding subtle ways to key viewers in on her state nonetheless. Complete with a concluding shot straight out of classic 70s cinema, My Dear Enemy is a nice corrective if you’ve grown tired of the splattery variants of Asian film.
– Simon Howell