Now and Forever (Yeonriji) (Special Limited Edition) Review
Lee Min-su (Jo Han Sun) awakens early in the morning and, leaving the bed that he shares with a young woman, dresses for work. On the way he takes a call from a young woman who's falling in love with him but who he dials off from with a story about leaving the country and being en route to the airport. The girl that he leaves behind in the bed asks why he lied to her. "I didn't", he says, clearly doing so again. As he leaves for the office, a third lie escapes his lips, one in which he asks the woman with whom he's spent the night not to change her phone number so to call her the minute that he returns. Opening the door to go no further than to work, he says goodbye but, this time, he would appear to mean it.
On his way into the city where the games company that he owns with Kyung-min (Seong-guk Choi) has its office, he flirts with the driver of a sports car in the next lane but crashes into the back of the vehicle in front when the lights unexpectedly change. With Kyung-min worrying about the effect that whiplash might have on the value of the company, in spite of it crossing the all-important threshold of ten thousand simultaneous users of their online software, he persuades and drives Min-su to the hospital, unaware that his partner will treat it with none of the seriousness that it deserves. For Min-su, life is no more than a string of opportunities to meet women and to make money. And so it proves once again, with Min-su asking Kyung-min to stop to offer a lift to Han Hye-won (Choi Ji Woo) a lift to the hospital, where, through a coincidence it would appear, they both have appointments.
Parting at the door, Min-su finds that Hye-won has left her mobile phone in the car and through his charm, cockiness and not inconsiderable wealth, as well as her mobile handset, he goes about wooing her. But she's not awfully impressed, telling him that they will not be anything other than friends until he apologises to and earns the forgiveness of every woman that he's ever treated poorly. But in doing so, she keeps a secret from Min-su, one that he may not be able to forgive her for. At least not until they find a love that, at first, escapes them.
A lightly comic romance is, one imagines, a difficult type of film to successfully pull off. Make it too funny early in the film and the audience might refuse to come with the makers as they attempt to add moments of pathos. Make the scenes of heartbreak too plentiful and audiences might wonder if the comedy is entirely suitable. It may well be difficult to truly terrify an audience - note the number of horror films that fail miserably at doing just that - but one can argue that to strike the fine balance between comedy and tragedy is equally demanding, even of the finest filmmakers. As such, there's something of a celebration even if a film only gets some way there, as Richard Curtis did with the sometimes-mawkish Love, Actually but it's something that director Seong-jung Kim has accomplished with ease with Now And Forever.
Without giving much away, the fine comedy of the first third of the film gives away to utter sadness as Now And Forever plays out. Much happens in it that I won't describe here, nor have I described above, as Seong-jung Kim holds something back, only to reveal them during the playing of the film. One, which comes late in Now And Forever, comes out of the blue and is genuinely shocking, leaving the audience questioning whatever conclusions they had previously drawn. Others are more obvious. We know, for example, that from her being a patient at the hospital, Hye-won is not well but the freedom that she enjoys suggests that she is on the mend. Or is she? When she and Min-su enjoy a meal at a restaurant to celebrate her birthday, is she really one year older or does the twinkle in her eyes suggest that this, like so much else, is simply her way of having fun. And how much of what she draws Min-su into is just that, the enjoying of an uncomplicated relationship so long as it lasts.
Seong-jung Kim does well to wrap his film in light comedy, some of it with Hye-won and Min-su but a large part of it coming from the other relationship in the film, that of Kyung-min and Soo-jin (Seo Young Hee). Definitely the supporting actors, there's still a wealth of funny, surprising moments in their affair, probably none better than when Soo-jin gets Kyung-min a part in a film that she's working on, only for him to plunge himself into it with a seriousness that his bit-part doesn't deserve. The shot of the three stars of Now And Forever laughing along with Kyung-min and his performance in this film as it receives its premiere is one of the warmest in the film, the initial awkwardness between the four giving way to love and friendship.
But for all the laughs, Now And Forever eventually gives way to swooning romance and its last twenty minutes is hard to beat for allowing one to enjoy a good cry. Try as one might, so heartbreaking is Now And Forever, that one has no choice to simply give in to it, swallow one's pride and let the tears flow. The manner in which the early comedy gives way to moving drama is impressive indeed, leaving Now And Forever a remarkable film and one deserving of a larger audience in the west.
A perfectly acceptable disc, Now And Forever is not a film that depends on a startlingly beautiful transfer but almost has one nonetheless. Initially, though, it's quite an ordinary one but occasional scenes, such as the meal in the restaurant to celebrate Hye-won's birthday, stand out as being particularly good and one then begins to notice just how good this film is. Granted, it tends to be the more intimate scenes that work best on the disc, where it shows a clarity that's lacking in the busier scenes. With that in mind, the final third of the film looks best on the DVD with the rural setting suiting the transfer better than the earlier, urban setting.
This Limited Edition comes with a choice between DD5.1 and DTS audio tracks and good though both are, the latter is excellent, having clarity, subtlety and a good dynamic range. It is particularly excellent in the later scenes set in the countryside during a visit that Hye-won pays to her father, when it allows the ambience of the small fishing village to be heard over the wash of the sea. It is really rather good throughout, though, with this being a highlight in a transfer that's of a very high standard. Finally, there are Engish and Korean subtitles.
The film comes with a Commentary by the director and music director but is in Korean and is not subtitled, leaving it something that offers little to those who are not fluent in that language. On to the second disc and the producers of this DVD seem to have taken an international audience into account in their planning of the features with several of the extras entirely without a language track but are, instead, scored by music from the soundtrack. The Making Of (19m34s), for example, doesn't really offer any interviews with the cast and crew but, instead, provides behind-the-scenes glimpses of the production with the actors on location and pre-shooting talks with director Seong-jung Kim.
Fun! Fun! NG Parade (14m10s) appears to be a behind-the-scenes look at the shooting of eleven scenes in the film, which often break down in the manner of bloopers whilst the OST Mini Concert (15m20s) is just that, footage of a concert where the soundtrack was performed shot from high in the stands and intercut with interviews with the cast, who appear between songs. Poster Shooting Place (5m55s) is, as the title describes, a behind-the-scenes look at the photographic session that produced the lovely poster art and shows how the on-set fooling around compares to the final image.
The next section of the extras disc is concerned with promotion and features a Press Conference on the Production (2m47s), a Press and VIP Premiere (3m41s) and a Press Interview and Premiere in Japan (6m43s). All of these are in Korean and are without English subtitles but the second of them is completely without dialogue even, oddly, during a question-and-answer session. This is followed by five interviews with Choi Ji Woo (2m12s), Jo Han Sun (2m28s), Choi Sung Kook (5m11s), Seo Young Hee (2m53s) and music director Park Kyoung Jin (9m22s). All of these interviews are in Korean and are without English subtitles. The final bonus features on the second disc in the set are a Stills Gallery (2m24s), a Music Video (4m29s) and a Trailer (2m58s).
However, the best extra material in this three-disc set is probably the bonus CD that comes with the two DVDs, which contains the Official Soundtrack to the film. A mix of instrumental music and songs, this works best soon after a watching of the film when it prods one's memory to the unbelievable sadness of Now And Forever's final scenes. Finally, there is a pack of five postcards and a small strip of, in my set, four film cells. It is, though, a beautifully packaged release, even amongst the best that I've seen, which probably counts for something when deciding on how to rate this Limited Edition for extras.
A superb film in a simply gorgeous package, this is a fine example of what a Limited Edition ought to be like, being eminently collectable. Granted that some of the extra material has little appeal to an English-speaking audience but the film and the soundtrack CD more than make up for that, leaving Now And Forever a wonderful romantic comedy that becomes an equally wonderful romantic drama.