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Love Tree

Posted April. 14, 2006 03:16,   


Yeonriji (The Love Tree), released in Korea yesterday, is a film featuring screen star Choi Ji-woo. The film reminds watchers of the TV drama Winter Sonata that made Choi the hottest Korean star in Japan and gave her the nickname “Jiwoo hime” (princess).

This film’s story also involves lovers forced to separate by an incurable disease, and Choi’s character resembles to her role in the drama.

Self-cloning is not always a bad thing. Replicating a specific image that was proven successful can be a commercially safe choice. The determining factor for further success is whether the actress can show signs of progress while duplicating the old image. In this regard, the Love Tree is not likely to be remembered as a success in Choi’s filmography, though it may jerk tears from some moviegoers. It seems the film features not actress Choi Ji-woo, but star Ji-woo hime.


A successful CEO of a game developing venture business, Min-su (Cho Han-sun), starts to go out with Hye-won (Choi Ji-woo) after giving her a ride on a rainy day. Min-su, once a lady-killer, feels love for Hye-won, and gets assured she is the one. Hye-won’s best friend Su-jin (Seo Young-hee) and Min-su’s friend Kyung-min (Choi Seong-kook) also fall in love. Min-su gets frustrated to find out about Hye-won’s incurable disease that could stop her lung functions, but later he hears even more shocking news concerning himself.

The Love Tree is full of carefully inserted traits that cater to the taste of young moviegoers. Kyung-min and Su-jin’s juicy love story complements that of the main characters that can be too serious at times. Sohn Hyun-ju and Jin Hee-kyung, two character actors, play Hye-won’s doctor and nurse. Hyun Young, a rising star, adds fun by acting as Min-su’s stalker.

Min-su’s fashionable looks, his cool convertible, and wine selections at a hip restaurant are all treats for the eyes.

While focusing on such fairy-tale love story, however, the movie loses something important: reality. There is no scent of reality in the Love Tree. The setting of the movie is an imaginary world perfectly fabricated to produce a tragic love story. Lines like, “What if I want to live more? The more I love you, the more I want to be alive,” assume too much innocence to the extent of irritation. Their love is pure, yet the audience can’t sympathize with it. Their parting is tragic but it doesn’t echo in our hearts. That is the limit of the sugar-coated, fairy-tale love story.

Choi duplicates her image as a dying princess. Watching the pouring rain outside the window with an innocent expression, Choi is surprised and touched by her man’s sudden appearance at the door. She is surprised at Min-su’s sudden kiss, but accepts it with her eyes wide open. All these pure images are her trademark that we are too accustomed to since the Winter Sonata days. It is a dilemma that her expression of love looks the same no matter who her co-star is. Breaking away from the very image that made her a star is as difficult as being a star itself.

In this sense, the Love Tree shows new potential of actor Cho Han-sun. His existence in the movie is much more powerful than in the Romance of Their Own, his previous work. His stage presence and sex appeal are like a blooming flower.

The Love Tree means two trees grow winding up together to become like one. The movie is the debut feature film of director Kim Seong-jung. Rated PG-13.

Seung-Jae Lee sjda@donga.com