A scene from “Delivering Love”
By Lee Hyo-won
Cinema allows artistry to soar high and far, allowing reality to mix freely with products of far-fetched imagination. However, there exists a marked difference between being surreal and just plain baffling. While visually pleasing, ``Delivering Love,'' the directorial debut of Jo Nam-ho, is, unfortunately, the latter. The movie thoroughly disappoints, particularly since it stars some of South Korea's biggest actresses like Shim Hye-jin and Kim Su-mi.
Unfolding in a rural village with scenic fruit plantations and quaint traditional houses, the film is a visual delight. A painter character does wonders to an old truck and other mundane spaces. But the film fails to keep the narrative on track and viewers will ultimately find themselves lost. If not, then you will be most likely be distracted by the intolerably cliched and corny script, which breaks the flow of the drama by inspiring giggles at all the wrong moments.
Nam-hui (Shim Hye-jin) makes a living driving down to a nearby city to sell fruits from her truck. Having to support her ill mother and troublemaker daughter, she has grown dogged and tough. But one day, a young man unexpectedly enters her life and rekindles her femininity.
Jun, a Little Prince-type, seems to have dropped from the sky, wearing bohemian clothing, a flower reef on his head, and carrying nothing but paint in his funny suitcase. Having nowhere to go, he spends a night in Nam-hui's truck. Thinking it's a thief, Nam-hui is startled and injures her wrist. But Jun proves to be rather useful in selling and delivering fruit.
While you're still wondering who in the world this guy is, Jun moves into Nam-hui's house as an ``indentured'' worker to help out while Nam-hui's wrist heals. Jun instantly connects with Nam-hui's mom, a dotard with the romantic fantasies of a schoolgirl and the dirty vocabulary of a pirate. Then, Nam-hui's 20-year-old daughter Na-rae returns home after having run off with her savings account, and she isn't too happy with their new lodger.
Meanwhile, Jeong, a neighbor agonizing over his unrequited love for Nam-hui, isn't delighted about Jun either. Nevertheless Jun brings new changes for everyone. A gifted painter, he beautifies everything he sees. He plays prince charming for the grandmother and helps Na-rae patch things up with her mom. And finally, through a platonic bond he enables Nam-hui to feel like a woman again, making her realize that her heart is still capable of fluttering. However, Jun cannot stay with them forever.
The movie can be compared to ``Everybody Has Secrets'' (2003), where Lee Byung-hun plays a miracle man that brings positive changes to three sisters ― minus the sex part. It has the larger than life fairytale quality of ``Big Fish'' (2003), but its poorly woven story makes the dizzyingly moments far from convincing.
Another great mystery shrouding this movie is the trailer. The sneak preview suggest it's a romantic comedy about a beautiful young man setting fire to the hearts of three generations of women from ― here's the twist ― the same family. But you discover that this is only partially true. What's more, the movie picks up old habits that Korean cinema seemed to have shaken off ― creating unwarranted twists, one-dimensional characters and ``bipolar'' emotional flows.
What the movie attempts to do, however, is notable. There are some real-life issues: the frustrations of an unemployed youth; the hollowness an asexualized, disheartened middle-aged woman feels; and the consequence of aging.
In his future works, the director will hopefully bring a story that is in par with his exquisite visuals.