Siworae / 시월애 [KR 2000]

International title: Il Mare

THE PLOT

Siworae is a romantic drama with science fiction elements about two young adults, Sung-Hyun and Eun-Joo, who live in different times but are connected through a mysterious letter box by a lake house that transports letters and other objects from 1998 to 2000. Sung-Hyun is an architect and Eun-Joo is a voice actor and both have recently broken up with their partner. However, as they have more and more correspondence through their letters, they fall in love with each other and although both try to physically get together, this proves to be a near impossible task due to the separate timelines.

WHAT I LIKE

Siworae is a beautifully shot movie with many atmospheric sceneries (e.g., the lake house, the apartments, the train station) that are often lit very brightly, which gives most scenes a dreamlike quality. The cinematography is remarkable with lush colors and great scenic views of the coast and/or the lake house. Also, the frame composition and the editing are great in getting composite shots of the couple – although they are technically never together (e.g., at the theme park). The plot is overall well-written and although some moments are rather cheesy (e.g., the cooking sessions), the characters have great chemistry and carry the movie nicely. In addition, the story has some nice little quirks and great attention to detail (e.g., the dog Cola). Together with the somber and beautiful piano music this makes for an atmospheric and entertaining love story.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

Although the editing is well-made and the characters are generally believable, some scenes feel overly cheesy (e.g., the cooking sessions) and sometimes the acting is too over the top (e.g., when the couple goes to the theme park “together”). The lead duo certainly carries the movie, however, the side characters could have been stronger, both in dialogue and in the actual performance, to make the movie a bit more diverse. Another noticeable drawback is the slow pacing, as one of the movie’s two plot twists is revealed early on, while the other is predictable about halfway in. Here, structuring the last act more efficiently could have resulted in a greater emotional payoff.  

THE VERDICT

Siworae is a romance about a young couple that is connected through a mysterious letter box although they both live in different times. The premise is great, and the time travel aspect does serve the plot nicely. What really sets the movie apart is the outstanding chemistry between the lead performers and the beautiful cinematography. However, due to the at times slow pacing and some cheesy elements, the movie also feels a little longer than it really should – still, it never overstays its welcome.

Overall 7/10

INTERESTING FACTS

 – As of 2020, there are two remakes of Siworae: an American version The Lake House [2006] and an Indian version Minchagi Nee Baralu [2015].

– The coordinates of the lake house (37° 44′ 16.00″ N, 126° 17′ 21.50″ E) reveal that due to breakwater, the land is underwater all the time – whereas in the movie there was sometimes low tide.

 – In Sung-Hyun’s lake house, there is a poster of the French architect Le Corbusier (1887-1965). He is famous for his minimalist architecture very much resembling Sung Hyun’s drafts.

 – The movie was critically well received but no commercial success in Korea, probably due to the similarly themed Donggam [2000] being released shortly before Siworae. However, over the years the movie has attained cult status in Korea, very much comparable to the American science fiction romance Somewhere in Time [1980].

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