APRIL SNOW (2005)
Stunningly crafted and tenderly portrayed, a man and woman meet in the hospital and discover their critically injured partners are having an affair
The temptation to take the emotional weight of betrayal and death, and transform it into an impassioned melodrama have been avoided in April Snow.
Instead, we are given a more restrained and subtle treatment of some highly charged issues. This is achieved through filmmaking which focuses on it superb aesthetics and character-building.
The natural performances of our two leads ties this all together, allowing us to gently slide into their lives, the pain they feel and the impossible decisions they must make.
The premise is by no means unique, having been touched in features such as the US’ Random Hearts (1999) and Hong Kong’s In the Mood for Love (2000). However, there is a Korean foundation to the issues here and they are uniquely crafted.
Event lighting technician In-Soo (Bae Yong-joon) is called away from gig preparation after his wife Sujin (Im Sang-hyo) is involved in a car accident in Sam-chuk. When he arrives at the hospital he meets Seo-Young (Son Ye-jin), who has rushed there on account of her husband, Kyung-Ho, also being in the car.
It soon becomes apparent that their partners were having an affair, leaving In-Soo and Seo-Young to initially start an awkward connection as they stay in a nearby hotel and await news of their partners’ recoveries.
The pair begin to bond over the unique pain of their matching situations. The pain of seeing their partners close to death, the betrayal and anger they feel over the affairs. The pair are soon pulled closer together, but as their partners’ recoveries progress they are left with even more painful decisions to make.
April Snow is a film punctuated with excellently understated moments of tenderness. In one scene, as In-Soo and Seo-Young get to know each other they discuss their work. When Seo-Young coyly announces she works as a housewife, In-Soo supportively mentions how tough that is for her. She smiles back, beaming at her recognition, something we assume she has not enjoyed from her husband.
It would say too much to mention a later scene, but it takes a big reveal moment and allows it to be played out with muffled cries from a room with its door closing.
The anger at their collective betrayal and the confusion over their new connection places them between the rock of loyalty and the hard place of exciting new horizons.
As an audience we feel the disorientating confusion this situation creates. While we do not witness their past relationships, just this budding onscreen one, we realise the conundrum the recovery of their partners will present.
We are left with a film of poetic depth with a genuine ability to move. One that tackles the big ticket emotions of love, loyalty, betrayal and even death in a measured and adroit fashion. This is a film that truly deserves broader appreciation.