Jung Woo-sung stars as a lawyer suffering from amnesia falls in love with a mysterious woman…
An unfortunate lawyer finds recovering lost memories to be more difficult and painful than he imagined in Remember You (a.k.a. Don’t Forget Me) from Korean writer director Lee Yoon-jeong, making her feature debut with a full-length version of her acclaimed 2010 short Remember O Goddess. The independent, partly crowdfunded film was produced by popular actor Jung Woo-sung (Asura: The City of Madness), who headlines along with actress Kim Ha-neul (Blind), backed by a solid supporting cast including Bae Sung-woo (Inside Men) and Jang Young-nam (Ode to My Father).
The film opens with Jung Woo-sung as Seok-won, a lawyer who finds himself alone in an apartment and unsure of who he is after apparently having lost ten years’ worth of memories in a car accident. Gradually he tries to get back on with his life, and though his memories don’t appear to be coming back anytime soon, he meets various people who assist with filling in some of the blanks, including a woman called Jin-young (Kim Ha-neul), who he meets in a hospital. Both suffering from mental trauma, the two fall in love and move in together, planning a future despite their troubles. However, Seok-won’s memories start to come back in bits and pieces, slowly revealing a shocking secret about their pasts.
Although basically a romantic drama at heart, Remember Me does have a fair amount going on, and there’s no sense of it being an overstretched version of something that worked better as a short. Lee Yoon-jeong keeps the mystery front and centre for the most part, some Hitchcockian nudges helping to make it surprisingly suspenseful. The fact that the entire supporting cast seem to be in on the dark secret, hinting at things in a none-too-subtle manner, keeps the viewer as disoriented as poor Seok-won, as do some odd time shifts and changes of perspective and a subplot involving a woman (Jang Young-nam) who may or may not have murdered her missing husband. It’s clear from the outset that something is wrong, and this promise of a less happy ending than usual for the genre makes the film engaging and watchable – while the final act does, inevitably, lurch into melodrama and extended flashbacks, it does end on a pleasingly ambiguous and serious note. As a result, though it doesn’t all hang together or necessarily make sense, it’s an entertaining puzzle that never feels too manipulative.
Equally interesting is the dysfunctional relationship between Seok-won and Jin-young, the two of them clearly being damaged people who are likely lying to themselves or each other about their pasts and both being on medication for one problem or another. The dynamic between the two makes for some effective drama and adds to the tension, as it’s hard not to hope that things will work out for the unfortunate pair. The performances from the two leads fit the bill, and though Jung Woo-sung’s turn is a bit blank and distant, this is entirely appropriate for his character, even if it’s questionable how he manages to carry out his duties as a lawyer. Kim Ha-neul gets to show more emotional range, being by far the more animated and hysterical of the two, veering between kind and loving and worryingly crazed.
Lee does well for a first time director, and for an indie production with more limited resources the film looks good, being comparable with bigger-budgeted affairs. If anything, the film benefits from this, giving it a slighter grittier and more grounded air, something which helps to distract from its less believable aspects. A relatively short running time of less than two hours is similarly in its favour, and Lee wins points for keeping the pace lively.
Remember You is definitely more enjoyable than a lot of other Korean romantic dramas, and Lee Yoon-jeong makes good use of a central conceit that could in other hands have been far gimmickier. Whether or not it’s likely to appeal to non-fans is debatable, though she does achieve the feat of at least doing something different with the form.