There is a shot at the end of this breathtaking thriller where we see the two protagonists, a man and a woman, who look like the perfect couple, standing staring into a beautiful lake somewhere in Canada. That breathtaking shot holds the key to the plot, a tender brutal yarn so splendidly threaded and woven into a pastiche of pain, retribution and catharsis, I doffed my hat to the writer. Where are such inventive writers in our own country? We seem to be stuck in a soap bubble. Cinema the world over has moved to fresh unexplored territory in pursuit of stories that open the locks of the human subconscious.
Recalled is a gripping drama that moves from being intriguing to moving, and finally leaves us freed of fear immersed in tears (is this what the band Tears For Fears meant when they named themselves?). It starts with Soo-jin (the very lovely Seo Yea-Ji) in hospital with complete memory loss. Her husband Ji-hoon (Kim Kang-woo), or that’s what we are told he is, stands rock-steady by her side. But who exactly is this man so devoted to the fragile vulnerable beauty looking so lost you want to protect her from the evil that lurks outside? The dramatic core of the plot hinges on Ji’hoon’s identity. The build-up towards the devastating finale is so riveting you will happily sweep aside some of the improbabilities that come hurling at you.
The framing of Soo-jin’s bewildering memory-flashes showing an endangered little girl and a protective little boy is so dreamlike it’s like watching a slow-dance in a trance. Kim Gi-Tae's cinematography captures both the dreamlike trance and the feverish crime drama as two sides of the same coin. I wish the director had just a wee bit more faith in his main plot instead of shading the picture in eye-grabbing colours that titivate the plot but de-activate its core drama. There is too much action in the film when it’s the emotional heart of the plot that furnishes the story and irrigates its arteries.
Nonetheless, the plot has ample emotional residue to see it through to the stunning finale. What emerges from the tumult (including a fire that burns down much of storytellings’ bleeding heart) is the one theme that we all believe in family first.
Recalled is a many-splendour ed film. It is on the surface a thriller and a very good one at that. But dig underneath. And you get a story of family ties and untold sacrifices that will break your heart. And yes, if all this is not enough reason to watch this film, then there is the lead actress Seo Yea-Ji whose fragility is her main strength. The film works in reverse. Its strength lies in its characters’ fragility.
Directed by Seo Yoo-min, Recalled gets 3 stars.
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