"Can't you even look up to say hello? You think this will bring your memory back?
I thought you said the past didn't matter... Was that all an act?"
Seok-won (Jung Woo-sung) has suffered from amnesia since being seriously hurt in a road accident and has no memory of the last ten years of his life. While waiting in a surgery for an appointment with his doctor, he sits down opposite a woman – Jin-young (Kim Ha-neul) – who instantly starts to cry as she looks at him. Confused that the woman appears to be “crying at him”, Seok-won asks if she perhaps knows him but rather than replying she instead hastily puts on sunglasses to hide her tears and rushes off.
Over subsequent days, fate almost seems to push the two together time and again and as feelings start to blossom, they begin a romantic relationship. However, while Jin-young appears mostly warm, loving and seemingly happy, her mood noticeably darkens any time Seok-won tries to find ways to bring his lost memories back.
As snippets of memories gradually, and confusingly, start to flash across his mind, Seok-won must face the possibility that Jin-young is part of the past he can't remember as well as his present...
In 2011, director, script supervisor and visual artist Yoon-jung Lee directed a 25min short film entitled ‘Remember O’ Goddess’ – based on a story she had written many years earlier – undertaking a KickStarter crowd-funding project in an effort to fund a full-length feature film version of the tale. ‘Remember You’ is that feature.
As was the case in ‘Remember O’ Goddess’, ‘Remember You’ begins with a dishevelled and rather confused looking Seok-won (Jung Woo-sung replacing the short’s Kim Jung-tae in the lead role) wandering into the local police station to report a missing person. When asked for a description of the missing person’s height, build and appearance, however, he keeps glancing at his own reflection in the window behind him. Becoming quickly exasperated, the policeman demands to know Seok-won’s relationship to the individual he’s searching for, at which point Seok-won simply states that the man who has gone missing is himself.
Serious though this intro is (as is Seok-won’s situation and indeed the larger narrative, as a whole), the scene has a subtly quirky originality to it, allowing not only Seok-won’s feeling of being utterly lost to be referenced even before we learn he has lost a significant portion of his memory but also warming viewers to the entire story from the very outset.
Similarly, the inclusion of gently, genuinely funny moments in the early stages of Seok-won and Jin-young's relationship, combined with great actor chemistry, almost guarantees that viewers will find themselves investing in their story wholeheartedly. The love affair between these two (as we will discover) rather broken individuals feels utterly real from start to finish, eliciting audience empathy with ease and increasing the feeling of poignancy leading to heartbreak to an almost palpable level, as the cracks begin to show and the pain of the past rears its head to infringe on the present. Not only that, but the fact that Seok-won has (initially) no memory of the past ten years means that he and viewers uncover his story in tandem, making it very much feel like we are taking a journey with the character rather than simply sitting and watching events unfold.
Throughout 'Remember You', director Yoon-jung Lee gives tiny clues to the real state of play - scars on Seok-won's wrist which he states show he's likely "had a complicated life"; a strange look on the face of Seok-won's work partner on meeting Jin-young for supposedly the first time; fractured and foggy (in terms of Seok-won's mental state) flashback moments of a beautiful woman running up a corridor while a man unrecognised by Seok-won stops him at the subway asking how Bo-young is; etc. - and while many of these moments at first go unnoticed by Seok-won, as the story of his past begins to coalesce they serve as almost mental jigsaw puzzle pieces ensuring that viewers will be itching to put them in place within the overall picture before the full story is unveiled within the narrative. While watching 'Remember You', you'll likely come up with more than one theory as to the true state of play but while you may well put many of the puzzle pieces together correctly, Yoon-jung Lee keeps things interesting and involved enough for this tale of love and heartbreak to still hold a surprise or two, regardless of how close you are to the truth.
And speaking of jigsaw puzzles: One of the most referenced 'clues' in 'Remember You' comes in the form of a large jigsaw puzzle in Seok-won's apartment which stands not only as pivotal to the final full story reveal but also serves as an ongoing visual representation of the changing state of Seok-won's mind. Early on, when Seok-won's memories are little more than fractured, separate snippets with no connection to an overall picture, the jigsaw pieces, too, lie scattered and separate in their box. As time progresses, he gradually begins to put the pieces of his past together piece by piece in tandem with coming closer to completing the jigsaw and when he finally realises there is a single piece of the jigsaw that is missing, it not only stands as an allegory for the final missing part of the story but also shows itself (physically) to have been the cause of Seok-won's entire situation. An inspired idea detailed to perfection, making 'Remember You' all the stronger by its inclusion.
Cinematically, 'Remember You' is both accomplished and indeed beautiful and it's easy to tell that Yoon-jung Lee has worked within the directing team of a number of Korean films, even though this is her debut feature as sole director. Pacing is gentle, never rushing nor dragging, and though there is little need for special effects or CGI (another plus point, in my book) when green-screen (I assume) is briefly required - for the road accident scene - it comes across as perfectly natural, fitting wholly with the more standard filming techniques of other scenes.
'Remember You' is a deftly crafted, deeply poignant tale of love and heartbreak and though the film's budget was miniscule that fact never shows itself in any way, shape or form. A film that is proud to be a melodrama, 'Remember You' is guaranteed to bring a smile to the face in its early stages and floods of tears in its heart-wrenching finale.
While this ensures that 'Remember You' can easily stand alongside classic, and far more famous examples of the melodrama/tear-jerker genre, that certainly isn't the end of the story. For, equally, this tale of forgotten love and remembered pain can hold its head high in the face of classic Korean films detailing the anguish memory (or a lack thereof) can bring - 'Nabi', '2009 Lost Memories', 'A Moment to Remember
', 'A Man who was Superman
', to name but a few. Like them, 'Remember You' ultimately asks if ignorance, perhaps, truly is bliss, and does so gently, beautifully and indeed with aplomb.
A genuinely poignant tale of forgotten love and remembered pain, 'Remember You' is at once beautifully romantic and utterly heartbreaking, ultimately asking if ignorance, perhaps, truly is bliss.
You can read the 2012 Hangul Celluloid interview with director Yoon-jun Lee (while she was in the middle of her KickStarter project) at:
Finally, the Hangul Celluloid review of short film 'Remember O' Goddess' can be found at:
REMEMBER YOU (나를잊지말아요) / 2016
Directed by Yoon-jung Lee; starring Kim Ha-neul & Jung Woo-sung