Today I’ll start the post from Reaction/thoughts portions for those that don’t want spoilers on the movies… but if you don’t mind spoilers or want to recall the story you can scroll down to the recap!
Basic Plot as described on Hancinema:
Julian has lived off with the money he lures from his rich female customers. But now he faces usurious debts from a hasty expansion of his business, and he will be killed unless he clears the debt in one month. The only way to save himself is to pretend to be the long-lost brother of an heiress and kill her to get her huge fortune. Min, the blind heiress, cold-hearted like Julian, slowly opens herself to him, and he, too, falls for her. But Julian has to pay his creditor and what makes it worse for him is that the illness that took Min’s eyesight relapsed, threatening her life.
The first thing I’d like to establish is that this movie is such a beautiful watch. The color scheme fit the darkness of the story, it’s all very moody, mellow and poignant. The director deserves some major props for the impressive background shots and the artistic way that the movie was framed. Definitely a very polished and slick style.
As a story, I think that it has the most number of manipulative, cynical people ever. Perhaps the only non-cynic had been the actual Ryu-Jin since he’s the one who saw Julian with a rosy lens and truly admired and cared for him. Too bad we never met him outside of his letter’s and Min’s memories of a little Ryu Jin.
At first I couldn’t connect with Julian at all. I hated how coolly he decided to impersonate a dead friend and even rifled through said friend’s belongings, looking at the evidence that the friend valued him and still not bat an eyelid. However as he leaves the club life to enter Min’s life he’s left without his cynical defenses, he starts getting sucked into the role of brother. And he seems to like being appreciated by someone other than the women who were after him for sex and a good time. So I could see how he could start changing and it’s interesting.
However there’s something skeevy about him falling in love with the person he’s supposed to be related to. But! I think it’s redeemed by the fact that I (just my opinion) think that Min was pretty sure that he wasn’t her real oppa, but just let it go to see how far the charade would go, and in the process she got sucked into it too falling for this stranger who was trying to be her oppa and somehow being kind as he was cold.
Min’s character could have been better written, I think, because for a while there she lost her autonomy pretty much becoming a reactive player in the story. She lost all the supposed strength she supposedly had. Her cynicism was something I never bought either, I think she was just a puppy nursing a wound, and at the first sign of possible help she fell in line. It makes me think that it wasn’t that she didn’t need anybody it was that she’d was afraid to need someone.
A gripe I did have with the movie was that MGY was way too young or KJH was way to old to play siblings. in the flashbacks the siblings didn’t seem to be so many years apart in age.
The Villian… the Loan Shark Ahjussi as I called him, was more interesting than the other two baddies. I didn’t understand his very specific hatred for Julian. Why was he so focused on him? Did Julian hurt someone he cared about? Why go to such lengths to stalk him and intimidate him? Why waste so much time on him and why bring up the an incident when Julian was topdog? It was like the story writer left a loaded gun in the room and it never went off. I was upset that we never got an answer for those question, just a very cold blooded confrontation.
The ending could be interpreted in various ways since it was pretty vague, but I already made my assumptions of the ending and I’m not that happy with it.
All around I did enjoy the movie, and I do recommend it for those movie buffs who love beautiful cinematography and dark stories in which there’s really no true hero or villian. People that are so riddled with contradictions and yet are engaging. I don’t recommend it for those looking for an explicitly happy ending.
“I don’t need anything” as a tear falls and a crystal snow globe slips from her hands. That is what definitely caught my attention in the intro to this movie. Why if she doesn’t need anything does she cry as she let’s go?
So let’s backtrack to a few moments before. Min’s(Moon Geun Young) at her father’s funeral and as she’s paying her final respects the people all around her gossip about how she’s searching for her long lost older brother who is stated in the will as the receiver of half the wealth their father amassed. She pays no heed to them and walks off into the wide snow plain. Where she drops the crystal snow globe.
The scene changes and the next character we meet is gigolo Julian( Kim Joo Hyuk) who’s just being released after a six month stint in jail. A minion (Jin Goo) appears to pick him up with a smile and a cigarette. Julian asks where a certain Ryu Jin is and minion casually informs him that Julian’s car was totaled by Ryu Jin who’s waiting in the car. Julian opens the backseat and is greeted by the sight of an urn. He looks at minion and minion shrugs and says “I told you he was in the car. People get small like that after they die”
After they go see a client, probably the one who’s husband caused his imprisonment we get a really cheesy sleaze host club scene where everything stops as he appears. And resumes when he lifts up a champagne club with a “cheers” which is echoed enthusiastically. Then there’s a meeting with the club owner who’s upset with Julian because he heard that Julian wanted to go independent.
After the talk Tae ho a.ka. minion is chauffeuring Julian when a crazy big rig comes careening directly at their car and stops just short of slamming into Julian’s side. Turns out it’s a loan shark who’s heard that Julian was back out and is now ready to collect the money he’s owed. He gives Julian 1 month and starts a ticking clock to countdown. Julian tries to buy more time but really it’s no can do and he has one month to get together 2.87 million plus interest paid off. Julian says it’s crazy to expect so much money in one month and the loan shark smirks, so then should he make it three days? didn’t Julian demand 500,000 in three days when he was topdog? “So you should know the rules, right?” Loan Shark smirks at Julian’s impotent anger and goes coolly back to his big rig and drives off. (Side note: where’s the police? after the crazy big rig goes into the opposite lane shouldn’t there be authorities checking up on what’s going on? )
Minion takes Julian to his house? apartment? that he shares with his girlfriend? Ji Hye (Seo Hyun Jin), But Jihye is not happy and both have a whispered conversation at the top of the stairs while peaking at Julian who’s at the bottom. She asks minion why he brought that “bastard”.
But he doesn’t last long at Minion’s house since he get’s a booty call from a rich woman. After sexy times (which we don’t see) she asks him about his father and he tells a story about how his father burned in front of his face, she doesn’t believe. He’s about to start the sexy times again but she says no because she has a meeting to be at. He leaves her apartment and minion is at the door waiting, Julian hands him the check and minion is offended at the “measly” thousand that Julian was given for his services.
While at a bar Julian, who’s been using Ryu Jin’s cell phone, receives a call from Ryu Jin’s father’s lawyer who wants to talk about inheritance issues. Aaah so dead boy turn’s out to be Min’s older brother. Julian and Minion look over Ryu Jin’s possessions that include snapshots with them (including one of Julian where Ryu Jin had written “cool guy”).
Minion keeps talking about how they should just drop off the ashes to Ryu Jin’s sister since Ryu Jin’s father and mother are already dead. I see a plan forming in Julian’s mind as minion speaks about how Ryu Jin wrote letters to his little sister all the time and how he talked about how she’d inherit their father’s money. They even watch a family video. Next thing we know they’re driving off to the countryside to meet Ryu Jin’s sister.
At the gates to Ryu Jin’s family house Julian let’s Minion in on the plans and asks him for his name “cute Mickey” minion says and Julian says no, his real name and he reluctantly answers “Kim Tae Ho” and Julian tells him as he takes off minion’s hat, “forget about Julian and Mickey, you’re now Kim Tae Ho, Ryu Jin’s secretary.” Understandably minion is not quite sold on this endeavour warning Julian that if he’s caught it’s back to jail. and he doesn’t want to go to jail with him.
Once inside the house Julian starts to spout all kinds of things and even cries for greater effect. Using knowledge from what he’s seen read or deducted from Ryu Jin’s diary. Min comes down and without paying much attention orders her servants to escort the stranger out of the house.
He chases her and plays the snow globe for her and she pushes him away as she remembers how they were once very close siblings when they were suddenly separated as children. Again she orders her servants to take him out and just give him compensation money so that he can be on his way. The lawyer points out that as her brother he deserves half the inheritance, she should sign off of on it, but she denies this since she won’t sign off for a person who’s been dead 16 years.
Julian plays it smart and says he’s not interested in the money, he just wants to see her smile. And while it does seem to stop her, she “smiles” for him and then orders him out. He starts to spout about his love for her and before he finishes it Min has hit and cut him with the edge of her walking stick She tells him that she “doesn’t need love”
The servants take him into the house and show him his room as they tell him how Min suffered ‘cerebral thrombosis at 13 and went blind by 15 years of age. He makes a show at being angry at his “father” for not helping his sister. But the secretary/ housekeeper assures him that it was thanks to their father that Min was able to survive. (side note: the house is gorgeous but those stairs are sooo scary! they don’t seem to have handrails! even with perfect eyesight (with glasses on) I have a habit of falling down stairs, and with these ones a broken leg would be the least of my worries… how does blind Min go up and down them so easily?)
The secretary/housekeeper mentions to the lawyer that she had imagined Ryu Jin differently, and the lawyer sighs saying that people are influenced by their environment.
Julian continues to act as “brother” and scolds her for things like not finishing a plate of food, not picking up after herself and not allowing herself to be around others. After one such lecture she stalk off into the adjacent countryside and he follows after her. However they’re not alone and loan shark ahjussi has come to check up on Julian and his acting. They all take cover under a bridge as it starts pouring.
Loan Shark ahjussi listen’s in on Julian’s speech about how the world won’t go softly on a blind person, but that he’ll be there to help her in the future. Loan shark Ahjussi watches on and stais entertained but flips off Julian, which is pretty hilarious in my books… I think loan shark ahjusshi thinks Julian is a bigger wanker than even himself.
Min yells at him that he should stop torturing her like this, making her remember what she wants to forget. She says that it would have been better if she’d been born blind instead of having her eyesight go bit by bit. She stalks off crying in anger and frustration. LSA tells Julian as soon as MIn is out of hearing range that the stone Julian chose this time won’t get turned into gold.
Julian catches up to Min who’s walking on the railroad and walks behind her. They soon hear the train’s horns and Min turns towards the side that Julian’s at and says, “oppa… kill me” with a blank face. Julian looks back at the train almost considering it, I think.
Min’s tears slip down her face and Julian pulls her to him at the last minute. They walk back quietly with her holding on to his arm.
He calls Taeho for a favor- he ordered drugs that could kill her. He gives it to her inside a harm he gives as a gift with letter he wrote in braille. Then he takes her to a fair. When she asks what’s inside the charm he tells her it’s drugs that’ll kill her, since that’s what she wanted, she recoils a bit and he lies again patting her head, and tells her it’s a joke, and if she ever says she wants to die again, he’ll beat her up.
The LSA appears at the fair to take a picture of the “beautiful couple”. They walk around and then he drops back and watches her as she struggles against the crowd. In the middle of all of this she reaches out to see his face and notes that it’s different than what she’d imagined his face would be like.
She does fall sick after all of this and that’s when he finds out that Min is actually engaged to one of the servant’s a Mr. Oh. (I find it sort of suspicious) They go to the hospital together but of course Julian doesn’t recognize the doctor that’s supposedly been with the family for years. The secretary tells Julian to go do his own thing because they’ll be going elsewhere. Julian does walk away but not too far away and the secretary sees him hanging out with “strange people” However it seems to me that she’s also quite a strange one. She suggests to the lawyer and Mr. Oh that they get a DNA test to confirm their blood relationship. Julian overhears their plans as he smokes on the second floor
The next day the secretary lady is all up in a tizzy because Min has disappeared and Ryu Jin isn’t there either. IT turns out that Min has decided to go out and Ryu Jin has silently followed her. Isn’t this a tad creepy? He gets Minion to come with and they follow her around. Min asks for help from strangers and is taken to where she’d wanted to go by those kind strangers, minion is astonished that nice people still exist.
They follow her to a ring shop where they stay just close enough to over hear her conversation with the clerk. They’d thought that she’d gone to buy a ring for her boyfriend but it turns out that it’s a present for Ryu Jin’s birthday. She laughs with the clerk saying that her brother won’t really appreciate the gift and instead call her a dummy because it’s not his style.
Minion and Julian continue their creepy following and they watch as she approaches random shoppers asking for directions. Just as she’s talking with the strangers Min pitches forward and the shoppers crowd around her as she falls in a faint. Julian wants to hurry towards her but minion stops him. The LSA beats Julian and organizes the people so that an ambulance can come for Min. As he’s doing it he looks at Julian directly in the eyes.
Julian finds out that Min actually has a brain tumour that should have been operated on way before but nothing’s been done on it. Turns out that it could possibly allow her vision to return if it’s removed. I’m not quite sure why or what Mr. Oh doesn’t want Julian to tell Min.
The next day for Ryu Jin’s birthday, after her discharge from the hospital, Min wants to go out to have a firefly viewing. He lies to her that there are fireflies but she asks him instead why he’s always telling her these white lies. Fireflies don’t come out until quite sometime after his birthday. She tells him that she knows that he’s hiding something but not what it is. She grabs his hand and holds it to her face remarking on how warm his hands are. she asks him not to lie to her because his voice betrays his lies, she can tell. He darts out and starts to try to catch fireflies, but come up empty each time he tries. She just smiles at him and tells him “thank you” as rain starts to pour down on them.
They make it back home and get a scolding from the secretary/housekeeper lady. She starts to order Min around by telling her to kick Julian out, but Min tells her to stop acting like her mother because she’s not. Secretary protests saying that Julian’s an imposter and not really Ryu Jin, Min tells her that she’ll prove it herself since she does have some of Ryu Jin’s letters, not many, but some, which probably means that someone has been holding the letters back from her. Secretary lady looks startle at this. ( I know there’s something fishy going on with this lady)
Later in the evening Ryu Jin sees Min out in the little pond thingy in the courtyard and calls out to her. She starts to make her way to him but he tells her to stay there and he’ll go to her. He shuts his eyes and tries to experience what her life must be like everyday, and he slips but reassures her that he’s fine. She understands what he’s doing, because when he calls out her name she answer “I’m here oppa” and starts making her own way to him, and then she’s grabs him saying “I found you”.
She shows him the letters and says that she found Ryu Jin oppa’s picture, and it IS his picture. He tells her that the guy in the picture isn’t him. She smiles and says that it must be the “cool guy” he admired, the number one from the club. He tells her that he doesn’t admire that guy, that he’d only admired him when he was immature. Min smiles and tells him that that can’t be after all Ryu Jin had told her that that guy was a really great guy, gentle even when he didn’t allow himself to love anyone. Julian cries silently as Min continues to tell him about how she was interested in Julian since she felt that the both of them were somehow very alike. (she totally knows!)
That night Julian decides that the charade has gone on long enough and he prepares a letter in braille for Min and leaves Ryu Jin’s ashes for her in the room he occupied. However she walks in on the secretary complaining about Min’s decision to not kick Julian out when he’s obviously an imposter. She’s rummaging through Min’s belongings to find the letters and pictures that she has hidden away. She’s worried that if they don’t prove that Julian is not Ryu Jin then their whole gig is up and they just wasted time and won’t have anything to show for their “work.” grrrr I KNEW IT!!!
Julian hurriedly goes to see the doctor that knew family from a long time ago and asks the truth about Min’s tumour. the doctor tells him frankly that the tumour would have been operable when they first had the diagnosis, but since Mr. Oh and Ms. Lee had objected, she hadn’t had the operation and now it was too late to do so. She only had a few months left to live. I can’t believe a doctor would compromise his license by complying to withhold information about the patient’s illness from the patient herself, especially as she’s not mentally impaired!!!
MIn meanwhile has decided to visit the club that Julian worked at and takes to asking very dangerous people for direction. Minion sees her wandering around and calls Julian to inform him of her whereabouts. She is almost raped by some nasty thugs but Julian makes it to the rescue and gets rid of one thug with a brick to the head and another he half pummels to death before grabbing Min and driving off.
As they’re driving back Min let’s a picture of Julian go and whispers that she wishes that he weren’t her brother.
They arrive at Min’s house though Julian doesn’t tell her, he simply tells her that she should just stay in the car. He goes into the house and he confronts Mr. Oh and Ms. Lee about their nefarious plans. They get into a heated argument as he rips up the paper that declared Min and Mr. Oh married.
Outside Minion knocks on Min’s window and is incredulous at Julian’s actions thus far. He tells Min that she’s at her house, and she gets down. She ends up hearing Ms. Lee’s and Mr. Oh’s plans as well as some Julian’s. However she leaves before Julian tells them that from this point on he’ll be protecting Min and won’t allow anyone to hurt her.
As he bursts out of the room he spots Minion and growls at him asking him what he’s done. Minion informs him that he’s lost all respect for Julian and drives away.
Julian sees Min walking out and grabs her. She turns around with the drug pill he’d hid inside the gift he’d given her. She asks him if this really is something that’ll kill her. He tells her that he told her he was joking, so of course it isn’t. She starts to put it in her mouth, but he stops her. He gets the pill from her and empty’s it and then tells her to feed it to him if she doesn’t trust him. He leads her hands to his mouth before she slips it into his mouth she crushes it a bit and then slips it into his mouth. Turning away she tells him that fine, she’ll trust him.
The Next day everybody is sitting at the table and Min is cooking. The lawyer arrives and Min serves the food she made to everybody. Before they eat she asks the lawyer to pass out some envelopes. She tells Mr. Oh that she’s leaving the business to him since he seemed to want it, but she’ll pass on the marriage. She tells Ms. Lee that she should leave after eating since she’s receiving the money she’d wanted.Ms Lee pretends that she doesnt’ know why Min is doing this and Min tells her to quit the act since she heard everything the night before.
Ms. Lee asks her why then is she not scolding Julian, and Min tells her that it’s because she’s already asked him to leave. Ms. Lee again complains why that is all, and Min tells her that it’s because he’s her oppa. Then shouldn’t he stay with her says Ms. Lee and Min tells her that he can’t since she loves him.
Julian takes it all in quietly and after he finishes eating he takes the envelope she’d prepared for him with money and thanks her. She tells him to leave quietly so that she could think of all of this as a dream.
Min goes about her life with the lawyer talking to (probably Julian) about her surgery and Julian meanwhile goes back to his Host lifestyle. And despite supposedly having a lot of money he hasn’t paid back LSA.
The day of the surgery Julian appears and signs the surgery release papers without even saying a word to Min, though she does notice that he was there.
Julian leaves a letter that he’s written for Min, he asks that the lawyer give it to Min after her surgery.
MIn having noticed that Julian had been there asks the lawyer about it who confirms it and tells her that Julian had actually given back the money and left a letter for her. Min asks the lawyer to take her to see Julian.
Julian however is not at the club, he’s currently at the airport on the way to another country with the help of some false I.D.s from one of his lady loves. Minion shows up all contrite and asking to be taken back under Julian’s wing. Julian laughs and headlocks minion as he says goodbye.
Just as he passes security his telephone rings and minion get’s this evil look saying he should answer since it’s “game over”. Julian answers and sure enough it’s LSA who lets Min say hi first and then talks to Julian himself. Julian runs and drives like a maniac back to the club.
Meanwhile Min isn’t really tied down or being mistreated, LSA is acting all civilized letting her talk about how much she loves Julian and how she wants to see and hear him once again before her surgery. The guy even sounds interested in what she’s saying.
However as soon as Julian makes it to the club, LSA is all murderous business and stabs Julian multiple times. Min starts shouting for help as Julian whimpers her name. she starts sobbing at how cold his normally warm hands are.
Next thing we know, we pan through Min’s house which is covered in sheets indicating that no one lives there, but Min is there. She’s looking at the mirror and getting prepared to go out.
She walk out and goes through the countryside looking at the trees in wonder, letting us know that she’s actually able to see. She imagines herself and her brother playing among the trees as we hear what Julian had told her in her letter. Telling her that he’d wait for her forever until they can meet again.
She walks straight ahead until she’s at the lone tree in the middle of the snowy plain. She runs up to the tree smiling. We hear footsteps approaching and as Min lifts up her head we see that it’s Julian. She asks with a smile who he is, and he tells her he’s oppa, she tells him not to lie since she can and he finishes her sentence for her, “since i can tell from your voice” They hug tightly and the vision pans out and then it’s just the tree.