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April Snow

Bae Yong-Joon and Son Ye-Jin capture the moment in April Snow.
  Korean: 외출
Year: 2005  
Director: Hur Jin-Ho  
  Cast: Bae Yong-Joon, Son Ye-Jin, Im Sang-Hyo, Ryu Seung-Soo, Kim Kwang-Il, Jeon Guk-Hwan, Yu Seung-Mok
  The Skinny: Two strangers discover their spouses were having an affair in this highly anticipated film from Christmas in August director Hur Jin-Ho. April Snow doesn't quite achieve the dizzying heights of Wong Kar-Wai's similarly themed In the Mood for Love, but thanks to magnetic performances from its two leads, beautiful imagery, and an understated filmmaking style, it amounts to a fine film all the same. Bae Yong-Joon fans aren't likely to be disappointed. You know who you are.
Review by

From Hur Jin-Ho, director of Christmas in August and One Fine Spring Day, comes April Snow, a highly-anticipated starring vehicle for Korean megastar Bae Yong-Joon, riding high on the success of the TV drama Winter Sonata and its ubiquitous Pan-Asian popularity. Bae stars alongside Son Ye-Jin (A Moment to Remember, The Classic) in this surprisingly affecting romantic drama. Plot-wise, April Snow revolves around a car crash that ends up leaving a man dead and a happy couple in a coma. However, things are a little more complicated for the survivors, considering the fact that the two lovers are in fact married to other people.

In response to the accident, concert lighting coordinator In-Su (Bae Yong-Joon) and housewife Seo-Young (Son Ye-Jin) rush to the hospital to wait by the bedside of their comatose loved ones. As they sort out their respective spouses' possessions, they slowly come to grips with the horrible truth. Discovering a condom here, a flirty text message there, and finally a sexually suggestive video, the two find their growing suspicions solidifying in shocking fashion.

Immediately, both In-Su and Seo-Young are tossed onto a veritable rollercoaster ride of emotions, as they are overwhelmed by feelings of anger, betrayal and unceasing sorrow, all of which they must endure in quiet solitude. But their solitary existences begin to intertwine when the two coincidentally rent rooms in the same motel to stay close to the hospital. Initially, their close proximity to one another feels awkward, but eventually a mutual attraction develops between these two lonely souls. They end up drifting towards each other, but is what they find together more than just an affair? Is it love? And if so, what will they do when - or if - their spouses wake up?

On paper at least, April Snow seems to have all the makings of a commercial blockbuster, particularly due to the presence of superstar K-idol, Bae Yong-Joon. In execution, however, it plays out more like a stylish art film than anything else. Perhaps that's part of the reason why the film underperformed in South Korea. Rather than go for the overblown tear-jerking histrionics that seems to typify Korean melodramas these days, April Snow is remarkably quiet, restrained, and elliptical.

Although it's a simple story, the film is not so much about what happens, but how it happens - with some of the memorable moments being the small, but significant interchanges between the two main characters. There's a welcome sense of hesitancy mixed with eagerness in the staging of the sex scenes, a quality that works well in enhancing the film's palpable sensuality. Although the film was for the most part panned by Korean critics, there seems to be more to April Snow than your average Korean melodrama. The film is subdued - perhaps too slow for some - but ultimately the chemistry between Bae Yong-Joon and Son Ye-Jin (not to mention the beautiful cinematography) makes for compelling viewing.

Although comparisons to other similar films are perhaps unfair, they are somewhat inevitable. The plot of April Snow brings to mind at least two films. The first is the 1999 Hollywood film Random Hearts which features a strikingly similar premise: a fatal plane crash brings together two strangers (played by Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas), who go through their loved ones possessions only to discover that their spouses were having an affair. However, while that film felt tedious, muddled, and altogether unnecessary, April Snow is immediately compelling due in large part to its singularity of purpose.

If Random Hearts represents the critical nadir of this makeshift "adultery mini-genre," then Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love is most certainly the pinnacle. And like its predecessor, April Snow explores the idea of people succumbing to their passions, becoming essentially the very thing they initially despised. Without overstating things, the film makes room for the viewer (and the characters themselves) to question what is happening. Even if their affair evolves into love, does that make them any different than their cheating spouses? Or are they two sides of the same coin? While April Snow isn't quite on par with In the Mood for Love, it comes awfully close considering its deft, unobtrusive handling of the material. Although that might not seem like much of a compliment, anyone familiar with the glory of In the Mood for Love will realize that to even be mentioned in the same breath is high praise indeed. April Snow, like the improbable phenomenon showcased in its title, is a surprisingly noteworthy experience. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)

Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
2-Disc Limited Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Audio Commentary, Cast & Crew Interviews, On Location Footage, Deleted Scenes, Music Video, Trailers, TV Spots, Photo Gallery, Behind-the-scenes footage, Press/VIP Conference material, Fan Conference material, Booklet
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
  Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen