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Written by Bridget Au

"Quietly engaging, unbelievably honest, and heartbreaking to the core, this affecting movie manages to be both funny and tragic."


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About the title
Couldn't find the Korean or Chinese title. I agree with those who believe that the odd title refers to the present continuous tense of the English language, as in "eat-ing", "liv-ing", "danc-ing", etc. and refers to living life day by day and life in its continuous nature


Lee Eon-hee

Im Soo-jung as Kang Min-ah
Kim Rae Won as Young-jae
Lee Mi-sook as Mi-suk (Min-ah's mother)
Kim Ji-yeong
Lee Yoo-jeong

Once in awhile a movie takes you by surprise. is one of those movies. Quietly engaging, unbelievably honest, and heartbreaking to the core, this affecting movie manages to be both funny and tragic.

Pretty young teen Min-ah is shy, quiet, and introverted, suffering from both a deformed hand and a terminal illness. She spent most of her childhood in the hospital, but her mother has ditched obsessive parental concern in favour of encouraging her daughter to live day by day like any normal teen by taking her out of hospital care and letting her go to school, accompany her grocery shopping, etc. In addition, her mother allows Min-ah to call her by her first name (unheard of in traditional, family-oriented Korea), virtually becoming her 'best friend' due to her daughter's lack of similarly-aged friends. This gives their relationship a heartfelt, humane aspect that becomes a pillar of the film.

Mother and daughter go about their lives until the arrival of Young-jae, an outgoing, charming, but somewhat juvenile photographer who moves into the apartment downstairs. Predictably, he falls in love with Min-ah, and after much prodding from her mother and the immature antics of Young-jae's persistence, the latter begins a quiet, sweet relationship with the young man. Min-ah's days are numbered, but the movie effortlessly showcases the everyday aspects of the two main relationships (romantic and mother-daughter) in their mundane beauty. This is what sets this movie apart from other tearjerker melodramas: there is only one very brief hospital scene, no deathbed hospital scene, no "Why didn't you tell me you had cancer?!" laments from the significant other, no emotional outbursts (until the very end, and justifiably so), just quietly affecting scenes (that range from hilarious to woeful to sentimental) that rely heavily on the three principal actors and characters.

Im Soo-jung carries the film beautifully as Min-ah, giving the film's protagonist great depth but also effectively conveying her timidness and understanding of her own plight. Lee Mi-sook is wonderful as her mother, balancing comedy and light-heartedness with drama. Kim Rae Won is equally important and surprises the audience with his sobbing scene at the end, a true 180-degree turn from the charming, sunny personality he gives Young-jae throughout most of the movie. Those of you who have read my reviews know that Kim Rae Won is my absolute favourite Korean actor. This guy knows how to choose his roles, knows his characters, and brings something different to the table every time, and this role adds to his already-versatile acting repertoire.

The most surprising thing about how good this movie is that it is Lee Eon-hee's directorial debut. She is confident enough to give her actors a lot of freedom and paces the movie extremely well, carefully balancing the funny parts with the inevitably tragic denouement. The journey is as beautiful, if not more so, than the sincerely poignant destination. A lovely movie that is highly recommended, especially for those who have damned melodramas in the past. A note to all Asian screenwriters: if you're going to use terminal illness as part of your series/movie, do it this way.



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