One Fine Spring Day is the English title of director Hur Jin Ho (허진호, 1963-)’s film Spring Days Are Passing (봄날은 간다). It is a film about two ordinary young people who meet by chance, fall in a relationship, then grow apart and go their own ways. Without much in the way of plot devices and dialogs, it is a subtle depiction of their sometimes euphoric, sometimes floundering endeavors to navigate through this heart pounding yet hard-to-pin-down passage of their lives, a beautiful love story for the more mature and discerning audience.
Hur Jin Ho is a master director when it comes to love stories. It seems few directors of any country or era can make such beautifully crafted pictures of love and life. He must understand the mysterious language of love that lives beyond the realm of mundane story telling. Not many movies that attempt to capture its subtle beauty actually succeed.
Hur’s first movie, Christmas in August (8월의 크리스마스), already showed his masterful touch in depicting an unlikely, platonic love between an ordinary carefree girl and a lonely young man dying with a terminal illness. Not much happens in the way of attention grabbing events, yet it succeeds in capturing the elusive side of life that is worthy of art. Spring Days Are Passing is Hur’s second film, but it is as masterful as one by a veteran director in its handling of the changing emotions and finely layered interactions of the characters. He went on to direct a few more movies of similar themes of love but with different settings. April Snow (외출) is a light work that depicts a brief encounter between a man and a woman who are each in a less than happy marriage. In Happiness (행복) he tries his hand at capturing the ultimate meaning of happiness by way of a couple who struggle with poor health and the many burdens of life they find hard to extricate themselves from.
All these works are top notch films you rarely find in these times of so called spectacles filled with special effects and superheroes. They also showcase the cream of the crop of Korean actors and actresses. Just watching the actresses lik Sim Eun Ha, Lee Young Ae, Sohn Ye Jin, and Lim Su Jeong in their roles seem to be a treat enough for me.
The main characters Lee Young Ae (이영애, 1971-) and Yoo Ji Tae (유지태, 1976-) are superb as usual in this movie. The subtle expressions on their face and their interactions with each other and nature carry the movie without resorting to fanciful plot lines. The actors themselves are the epitome of professionalism, achieving stardom purely through conscientious, old-fashioned good work while staying clear of sordid scandals and tawdry sensationalism that are so common today.
In just couple of years after the release of this movie, Lee Young Ae found international fame thanks to her role in The Great Jang-Geum (대장금), probably the most successful of all Korean TV dramas in history, and in the same year Yoo Ji Tae on his part played an impressive villain character in Old Boy (올드보이), a huge hit movie which now attained a cult movie status.
Lee Young Ae is returning to TV drama work after a long hiatus owing to her marriage. Yoo Ji Tae has been active as an actor as well as directing his own short films and one feature length film so far. We will certainly see a lot more of them in various fine roles in the future.