Review: ‘Solace’

"Solace" is a drama about two people who drift together but seem unable to make a commitment.

A nicely observed relationship drama about two people who drift together but seem unable to make the final commitment, “Solace” reps an impressive bow by writer-director Byeon Seung-wook that’s too low-key for offshore theatrical but deserves fest dates and some TV pickups. Despite the presence of local name Han Suk-kyu, the pic — far from the perky comedy-romancers favored by young South Korean moviegoers — took in only a mild 200,000 admissions locally late last year.

Han plays buttoned-down Shim In-gu, a pharmacist with a small shop who looks after his retarded younger brother, In-seob (Lee Han-wi), and still lives at home with his mom (Jeong Hye-seon). Into his life comes — very slowly — the much less buttoned-down Lee Hye-ran (Kim Ji-su), who’s always popping by for a headache or hangover cure.

Hye-ran is a clothes designer whose shop is always being busted by the police for illegal copying. Her personal life is also a mess: The family is weighed down by debt, and her younger sister — as custom demands — can’t get married until Hye-ran finds a man.

In-gu and Hye-ran inch slowly toward a relationship that ends up with them both in bed after some serious drinking. But both are wary of making the relationship more than casual, especially Hye-ran. Just when, during a camping trip, it looks like things are clicking, their separate family responsibilities hover into view.

Byeon, an assistant director on Lee Chang-dong’s “Peppermint Candy,” spent five years writing and setting up “Solace,” and the care in the dialogue and casting showsat every stage.

So little actually happens during the movie that even the final trigger seems melodramatic. But perfs by Han (more touching here than usual) and Kim (very different from her sadsack in 2004’s “This Charming Girl”) are so well meshed that the almost two-hour running time hardly seems overstretched.

Helming is unfussy and the technical package fine. Though limited in its ambitions — and neither arty nor mainstream enough to fit into a neat category — “Solace” ranks as one of last year’s most satisfying South Korean pics in terms of accomplishing what it sets out to do. Original title means “Things You Say When You’re in Love … “


South Korea


A Cinema Service release of a CJ Entertainment presentation, in association with Cinema Service, of an Object Film production. (International sales: CJ, Seoul.) Produced by Min In-gi, Kim Nam-su. Directed, written by Byeon Seung-wook.


Camera (color), Lee In-weon; editor, Kim Hyeon; music, Kim Shi-hwan; art director, Kim Min-oh; costume designer, Yun Mi-ra; sound (Dolby Digital), Gu Bon-seung. Reviewed on DVD, London, May 12, 2007. (In Far East Film Festival, Udine, Italy.) Running time: 113 MIN.


Han Suk-kyu, Kim Ji-su, Lee Han-wi, Jeong Hye-seon, Kim Seong-nyeo, Kim Gwang-shik.
Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More Film News from Variety