You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Secret Tears

A slow-burning love story, pitched halfway between psychodrama and the supernatural, "Secret Tears" initially holds the imagination but slowly loses its grip as time passes. In his sophomore outing after the "Carrie"-like "Whispering Corridors," writer-director Park Ki-hyeong finesses his material to an extreme degree, stretching viewers' good will almost to breaking point and finally not rewarding their patience. Park's rep, and the high craftsmanship on display, will ensure some festival bookings -- film has already been invited to compete at Rotterdam -- but this looks unlikely to clock up as many international miles as his first movie.

With:
With: Kim Seung-woo, Yun Mi-jo, Jeong Hyeon-woo, Park Eun-suk.

A slow-burning love story, pitched halfway between psychodrama and the supernatural, “Secret Tears” initially holds the imagination but slowly loses its grip as time passes. In his sophomore outing after the “Carrie”-like “Whispering Corridors,” writer-director Park Ki-hyeong finesses his material to an extreme degree, stretching viewers’ good will almost to breaking point and finally not rewarding their patience. Park’s rep, and the high craftsmanship on display, will ensure some festival bookings — film has already been invited to compete at Rotterdam — but this looks unlikely to clock up as many international miles as his first movie.

Previously known as “The Secret” (Korean title’s literal meaning), picture was a spectacular failure on local release in June, reaching only 40,000 admissions in Seoul. (“Corridors,” by contrast, was one of the top-grossing Korean movies of ’98.) It’s a much better film than its B.O. suggests, but Park has badly miscalculated his own pulling power, especially in a market that has since been drenched in atmospheric psycho-thrillers.

Opening is impressive, cross-cutting between a tearful teenage girl (Yun Mi-jo) running through the night and a group of work friends, led by insurance worker Ku-ho (Kim Seung-woo), celebrating in a restaurant. As the friends drive home in a heavy storm, their car hits the girl, standing in the middle of a highway. For a moment, time is suspended as her body hangs in the rain-lashed air, then it crashes down on to the tarmac.

In a panic, the trio take the body back to Ku-ho’s apartment, where they find she’s still alive and with not a mark on her. From her clothes, Ku-ho discovers her name is Mi-jo; next morning she’s already up and dressed, though she seems to be suffering from amnesia and lack of speech.

Ku-ho’s two workmates, Hyeon-nam (Jeong Hyeon-woo) and his mistress, Do-kyung (Park Eun-suk), are still troubled by the affair, especially as Mi-jo is a minor and she’s staying in Ku-ho’s apartment. Ku-ho himself starts to feel a growing sense of displacement as the mysterious, blank-faced girl with big black sorrowful eyes starts to fascinate him. He’s still in emotional denial after being dumped by his wife, the love of his life.

Slowly giving the viewer tiny bits of information, the film proceeds at a deliberate but fascinating pace, and half an hour in starts to move to another level. When the three friends take Mi-jo on an outing to a funfair, she suddenly goes missing — and Ku-ho finds her literally by tuning his mind into hers.

Bound by some kind of telepathic link, he starts investigating Mi-jo’s background and finds her parents died in a fire just after she’d left home with a female friend. As Ku-ho’s bond turns into love, deadly involuntary forces are unleashed within Mi-jo, and Ku-ho sets out to track down her friend to solve the puzzle and prevent more deaths.

Underneath its arty dressing of immaculate lensing, evocative use of colors (reds, purples, blacks and whites) and sequences bereft of dialogue, “Secret Tears” is a simple tale of psychological possession. Pic demands a certain leap of faith by the viewer in its atmospheric first half, but director Park fails to repay that in the latter stages by ratcheting up either the tempo or drama. Pic’s pacing hardly changes, and by the third act most auds will feel either restless or cheated.

Yun, while well cast for her looks, is required to do little more than stand there and look unworldly, as a vessel for powers beyond her comprehension. Other actors, especially Kim as the doleful Ku-ho, are largely constrained by Park’s rigorous direction. Technically, film is top drawer, with some memorable visual effects featuring water.

Secret Tears

South Korea

Production: A Cinema Service release of a Dadafilm production. (International sales: Mirovision, Seoul.) Produced, directed, written by Park Ki-hyeong.

Crew: Camera (color), Mun Yong-shik; editor, Ham Seong-weon; music, Kim Kyu-yang; art director, Shin Bo-kyeong; sound (Dolby Digital), Lee Seung-cheol; special effects supervisor, Lee Jeon-hyeong; associate producer, Lee Yo-jin. Reviewed at Pusan Film Festival (Korean Panorama), South Korea, Oct. 11, 2000. Running time: 107 MIN.

With: With: Kim Seung-woo, Yun Mi-jo, Jeong Hyeon-woo, Park Eun-suk.

More Film

  • The seagull

    Tribeca Film Review: 'The Seagull'

    A slow-burning love story, pitched halfway between psychodrama and the supernatural, “Secret Tears” initially holds the imagination but slowly loses its grip as time passes. In his sophomore outing after the “Carrie”-like “Whispering Corridors,” writer-director Park Ki-hyeong finesses his material to an extreme degree, stretching viewers’ good will almost to breaking point and finally not […]

  • Verne TroyerStarkey Hearing Foundation Awards Gala,

    Verne Troyer, Mini-Me in 'Austin Powers,' Dies at 49

    A slow-burning love story, pitched halfway between psychodrama and the supernatural, “Secret Tears” initially holds the imagination but slowly loses its grip as time passes. In his sophomore outing after the “Carrie”-like “Whispering Corridors,” writer-director Park Ki-hyeong finesses his material to an extreme degree, stretching viewers’ good will almost to breaking point and finally not […]

  • 'Greatest Showman' Tops Disc Sales Charts

    'Greatest Showman' Tops Disc Sales Charts as 'Last Jedi' Slips to No. 2

    A slow-burning love story, pitched halfway between psychodrama and the supernatural, “Secret Tears” initially holds the imagination but slowly loses its grip as time passes. In his sophomore outing after the “Carrie”-like “Whispering Corridors,” writer-director Park Ki-hyeong finesses his material to an extreme degree, stretching viewers’ good will almost to breaking point and finally not […]

  • Stockholm review

    Tribeca Film Review: Ethan Hawke in 'Stockholm'

    A slow-burning love story, pitched halfway between psychodrama and the supernatural, “Secret Tears” initially holds the imagination but slowly loses its grip as time passes. In his sophomore outing after the “Carrie”-like “Whispering Corridors,” writer-director Park Ki-hyeong finesses his material to an extreme degree, stretching viewers’ good will almost to breaking point and finally not […]

  • READY PLAYER ONE

    Steven Spielberg's 'Ready Player One' Crosses $500 Million Worldwide

    A slow-burning love story, pitched halfway between psychodrama and the supernatural, “Secret Tears” initially holds the imagination but slowly loses its grip as time passes. In his sophomore outing after the “Carrie”-like “Whispering Corridors,” writer-director Park Ki-hyeong finesses his material to an extreme degree, stretching viewers’ good will almost to breaking point and finally not […]

  • Hans Zimmer90th Annual Academy Awards, Roaming

    Hans Zimmer to Receive Steiner Award at Hollywood in Vienna Gala

    A slow-burning love story, pitched halfway between psychodrama and the supernatural, “Secret Tears” initially holds the imagination but slowly loses its grip as time passes. In his sophomore outing after the “Carrie”-like “Whispering Corridors,” writer-director Park Ki-hyeong finesses his material to an extreme degree, stretching viewers’ good will almost to breaking point and finally not […]

  • A Quiet Place

    'A Quiet Place' Reclaims Box Office Crown, 'Super Troopers 2' Outdoes Expectations

    A slow-burning love story, pitched halfway between psychodrama and the supernatural, “Secret Tears” initially holds the imagination but slowly loses its grip as time passes. In his sophomore outing after the “Carrie”-like “Whispering Corridors,” writer-director Park Ki-hyeong finesses his material to an extreme degree, stretching viewers’ good will almost to breaking point and finally not […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content