love-in-between

Love In Between (Du yeoja)

Korea (2010) Dir. Chong Yun-Su

Han So-Young (Eun-Kyung Shin) is a top gynaecologist happily married to successful architect Yun Ji-Seok (Jeong Jun-Ho) – or so she thinks. One night after work So-Young stops off at the college where Ji-Seok teaches and while waiting for him in his office, sees an instance message appear from a girl.

So-young sees one of the students Su-Ji (Shim Lee-Yeong) leaving right after the last message was sent and follows her to a gym when So-Young enrols in Su-Ji’s yoga class under a false name. Soon, the two become close friends but Su-Ji is unaware that they are sharing the same man.

A lot of Korean films over the past few years seem to have an identity crisis, especially their comedies as they cram too many elements into the one project. Thankfully Love In Between bucks that trend by being an emotional drama from beginning to end. It may have a tried and tested plot with a good old fashioned love triangle and might for some be viewed as Korea’s less horrific answer to Fatal Attraction but it shouldn’t be written off as it puts its own fresh spin on things and delivers some unsettling moments of its own at the end.

So-Young and Ji-Seok have been trying for a baby for over a year yet, even as a gynaecologist, So-Young doesn’t seem to know why despite a healthy sex life (demonstrated fully at the start of the film). When Ji-Seok’s sister and fellow gynaecologist Min-Seo (Lee Seon-Jin) and her husband Yeong-Ho (Choi Jae-Won) arrive for a dinner date, So-Young discovers a condom which she later learns isn’t Min-Seo’s.

After learning about Su-Ji, So-Young moves out one her own, gets a hair cut and begins to embrace a new social life with Su-Ji and the rest of the yoga class, even scoring a young admirer/lover in Jae Hee (Kwon Sung-Min). Meanwhile Su-Ji is aware that her lover is married but she is too head over heels in love with him to break it off, even when he tries to end it after So-Young leaves him.

Su-Ji’s bonding with So-Young seems genuine to both, with the former finding a trustworthy confidante to whom she pours out her heart and feelings, while the latter has someone who helps her embrace a new vibrant single life and escape from her unhappiness. Then Su-Ji learns she is pregnant.     

Yes, there had to be a reason why So-Young is a gynaecologist, playing neatly if slightly conveniently into creating some unnerving tension in the final act, and even then there is still a air of sympathy and reluctance from So-Young when extracting her vengeance. It is this neat detour from the usually aggrieved party goes bunny boiler which makes this a more palatable and enjoyable watch.

So-Young is clearly upset at her husband’s infidelity but refuses to hate him while Ji-Seok is a weak man who finds himself in love with two women, unwilling to let either go. Su-Ji is the not so unwitting piggy in the middle, enjoying the best of both worlds as she and So-Young grow closer due to Ji-Seok’s weakness for both women.

Along with the conventions of this well populated genre being toyed with, this film also shows how relaxed the censorship on sex and nudity in Korean cinema has come with both leading ladies regularly baring their bodies and getting down and dirty, which will score points with some viewers but frankly, are rather unnecessary in the grand scheme of things and doesn’t help the film’s momentum. Not to mention that Korean breast implants are a weird shape….

Fortunately it is the drama which carries the film, superbly acted out by the two female leads. Eun-Kyung Shin is better known in the west for the My Wife Is A Gangster films; seeing her in a “glamorous” and mature role as So-Young is an initial shock but soon shows off her versatility as an actress.

She elicits sympathy from the audience from the onset yet there is always the wait for that moment when she snaps and unleashes hell on both Su-Ji and Ji-Seok. Shim Lee-Yeong’s elfin looks – reminiscent of Chinese actress Zhang Jingchu – are very helpful in matching the wide eyed innocence of Su-Ji’s blissfully unaware drifting through life and love.

It’s clear that Love In Between is aiming for one sector of the cinema going audience with its steamy sex scenes, yet it works better when aiming for those who prefer a solid drama. Perhaps not entirely original, this is a surprisingly taut and slickly made film all the same.

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