"I knew I shouldn't have let you get married so quickly... but I did, and now look what's happened!"
Since being rescued from a mountainside bridge, Yeon-yi (Yoon Jin-seo) has come to believe that Jin-woo (Yu Ji-tae) is her soul mate, and following a two month whirlwind romance, the two are married, on the same day that Jin-woo’s brother, Jin-ho (also played by Yu Ji-tae), wakes from a coma caused by an accident abroad. However, Yeon-yi and Jin-woo hardly have time to settle into married life before Jin-woo too is involved in an accident, also falling into a coma. When Jin-ho returns to Korea to visit his brother in hospital, he is met by at the airport by Yeon-yi, who is shocked to discover that the brothers are, in fact, identical twins and, as Yeon-yi and Jin-ho spend more time together, questions begin to be raised as to which of the brothers actually saved her on the bridge. Yeon-yi’s increasing confusion about whether Jin-woo or Jin-ho is her true, destined love gradually draws her into an illicit affair with Jin-ho, but as their sexual relationship deepens, Jin-woo wakes from his coma…
First-time director Ryu Hoon (who replaced Kwon Ji-yeon during filming) attempts to underlie the entire drama of Secret Love with ideas relating to fate, destiny and the question of whether or not meant-to-be love truly exists but, like so many other elements within the film, they never really seem to go anywhere meaningful, and though an effort is made, towards the conclusion of the story, to redress the issue, it is combined with some unbelievable plot proceedings and a frustratingly open-ended coda, to ultimately say very little, leaving viewers to largely make up their own minds with little help from the plot.
From the outset of Secret Love there are repeated, and rather noticeable, plot contrivances - attempts to explain each away with subsequent (illogical) dialogue serving only to draw yet more attention to them.
To give you a couple of examples: At their wedding, Jin-woo and Yeon-yi find that Jin-woo’s wedding ring is too small to go over the second knuckle of his ring finger and Jin-woo claims that he must have put on weight since they bought the ring - they have only been going out for two months in total, and putting on a little weight generally doesn’t make your bones ‘fatter’; Though Jin-woo’s entire family (apart from Jin-ho) are at the wedding ceremony, and she has obviously met many of them before, she is totally unaware that Jin-woo and Jin-ho are identical twins - it seems almost unbelievable that no-one would have mentioned it, even in passing, for the entire duration of their romance - and this is later claimed to be because Jin-woo and Jin-ho used to like surprising people by hiding the fact that they look identical and; when Yeon-yi is talking to her mother about how distraught she is that Jin-woo has had an accident and is in a coma, her mother says that she knew she shouldn’t have let them marry so quickly “but I did, and now look what’s happened”.
Add to that the fact that subplots involving Yeon-yi’s mother and the local priest, and an unnamed girl who had some kind of relationship with either Jin-woo or Jin-ho, are never expanded to any extent and are rather forgotten later in the story, leading to the feeling that these stories were left to hang unfinished simply in order to have enough room to fit in the numerous elements of the main plot. Nonetheless, it is still left to the unnamed girl to explain to Yeon-yi the truth behind the mountainside bridge rescue, as the story concludes.
Though there are elements of thriller, suspense and Category III level sexual content in the latter half of Secret Love, the film is, at its core, a melodrama. However, sadly it is a melodrama with little heart or soul, and while there are tears aplenty (mainly from the character of Yeon-yi) throughout the film’s running time, they never really succeed in tugging at the heartstrings. In fact, Secret Love struggles to elicit viewer empathy in almost any respect, due to a noticeable lack of character depth throughout, and while the first half of the story is watchable enough, as the story gets more complex its handling becomes ever more clumsy.
As far as the fairly graphic sexual content is concerned, there is a rather unpleasant undercurrent to the sex scenes between Jin-ho and Yeon-yi. Each time Jin-ho makes an advance, Yeon-yi turns him down but, with dialogue like “I’m a bast*rd, aren’t I?” he carries on regardless, leaving her repeatedly protesting and squirming to get away. Then all of a sudden she totally gives in - utterly carried away by her growing love and lust for him - and they make passionate and consensual love. Frankly, the sheer physical aggressiveness of Jin-ho’s advances almost contain shadows of rape, and the (obviously unintentional) implication that perseverance will change a girl’s “No” to a “Yes” is unsavoury, to say the least.
Finally, the film’s story of a woman’s relationship with two brothers, both of whom have been in accidents resulting in coma, cannot fail to bring Addicted (2002) to the minds of virtually every South Korean film fan. Secret Love does attempt to (somewhat) put a twist on proceedings, but the unavoidable comparisons to a vastly superior film (on every level) just results in Secret Love ultimately being a rather unimaginative take on an all too familiar storyline.
Elements of thriller and suspense drama, sadly, cannot save Secret Love from essentially being a melodrama with little heart, and an all too familiar, overly contrived, and clumsily executed, plot simply begs the question of whether Secret Love should, perhaps, have remained secret, after all.
The performances of Yoon Jin-seo (as Yeon-yi) and Yu Ji-tae (as both Jin-woo and Jin-ho) are acceptable enough, but the lack of character depth throughout Secret Love prevents them from expanding their roles to any real degree.
Of the two, Yu Ji-tae at least manages to bring somewhat different character traits to Jin-woo and Jin-ho, allowing viewers to distinguish the characters from one another, even when, in the latter half of the film, they look exactly the same, right down to having the same style of haircut.
However, Yoon Jin-seo is required to do little more than look confused and cry (a lot) throughout Secret Love, and though that is a skill in itself, there’s just not enough here to allow for a particularly notable or memorable portrayal.
Roles (Actor - Character):
Yoon Jin-seo - Yeon-yi
Yu Ji-tae - Jin-woo
Yu Ji-tae - Jin-ho
Director: Ryu Hoon/Kwon Ji-yeon
The DVD used for this review is the Korean, Region 3, 2-Disc Special Edition release from Planis Entertainment which has an anamorphic transfer presented with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The picture is clear throughout and is free of ghosting and image artifacts.
The sound is provided as a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0, both of which are crisp and and clean.
Excellent subtitles are provided
throughout the main feature but English-speaking viewers should note that, as with many Korean DVD releases, there are no subtitles available on any of the extras.
Actors: Yoon Jin-seo, Yu Ji-tae
Directors: Ryu Hoon/Kwon Ji-yeon
Format: Anamorphic, Colour, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Region: Region 3
Number of discs: 2
Classification: Category III (Korean Film Classification)
Distribution: Planis Entertainment
Run Time: 111 mins (approx.)
DVD Special Features (100 mins):
• Making of Secret Love
• Green & Blue
• Making of Poster
• Photo Galleries
• Music Video
• Theatrical Trailer