Friday, January 15, 2016

Remember You: Jung Woo-Sung’s Repressed Memories

Amnesiac attorney Yeon Suk-won has lost the last ten years of his memory. Actually, it is more like thirty years according to the record of his billable hours. Pain and suffering have been his stock and trade, but his own trauma caused a deep psychological fissure. Yeon will try to fit together stray puzzle pieces of his memory in Lee Yoon-jung’s Remember You (trailer here), which opens today in Los Angeles.

The immediate cause of Yeon’s memory loss was an auto accident, but something else happened in his past that nobody around him wants to talk about. Frankly, there are not a lot of potential volunteers. Nobody comes looking for Yeon as he re-enters society after extensive in-patient therapy, except his law partner Oh Kwon-ho. He is eager for him to resume work on Kim Yeong-hee’s murder trial, but Yeon is no longer the legal shark she retained. There is something a little fishy about her—and she thinks Yeon ought to know why, but he is clueless.

In addition to the generally disorienting effects of his localized amnesia, Yeon is also distracted by the mysterious Kim Jin-yeong, whom he constantly crosses paths with. Obviously, she also has her issues and the resulting meds, but Kim seems to know more about him than she lets on. Regardless, they quickly commence a passionate, slightly dysfunctional affair. Yet, just when things start getting good, flashes from Yeon’s past threaten to destabilize their relationship.

Lee plays intriguingly odd tonal games throughout Remember You in a mostly distinctive kind of way. Several times it flirts with Hitchcockian suspense, only to revert back to melodrama in each case. Still, it is very much a mystery and often rather atmospheric. Lee’s screenplay (a fix-up of her 2010 short film) also manages to end on a note that should satisfy romance fans, but is not the least bit sentimental or overly pat, which is a neat trick to pull off.

Korean superstars Jung Woo-sung and Kim Ha-nel develop some wonderfully potent yet thorny chemistry as the romantic leads. Kim is particularly poignant as Kim Jin-yeong. Rather than let loose with cheap theatrics, we very directly see and feel how desperately she is trying to contain herself. As Oh, Bae Sung-woo (so effective in Hong Won-chan’s Office) memorably takes the clichéd best friend role and takes it in sleazier direction. However, Jang Young-nam basically upstages everyone as the potential black widow femme fatale.

Even though it is not a thriller per se, Lee Yoon-jung keeps the audience guessing right up to the third act revelation (perhaps a little too much, since the many flashback sequences are not always clearly delineated). The attractive co-leads and the small but accomplished cast of supporting players are also key to maintaining our intrigued focus. Frankly, it is one of the better psychological dramas you will see that opts more for tragedy than suspense. Recommended pretty enthusiastically, Remember Me opens today (1/15) in Los Angeles at the CGV Cinemas and next Friday (1/22) in Dallas at the Cine Oasis.