I don’t usually watch indie films, though I do like an occassional well-made thought-provoking one. Re-encounter definitely belongs to one of them, and given Yoo Yeon Seok is in it, it is naturally a must watch on my list. This movie is rather difficult to find online, especially if you want to download it; but if you’re just looking for a streaming site, there’re Chinese subs over at tudou, and English subs at gooddrama.net.
Re-encounter had the privilege to be premiered at the Busan International Film Festival in 2010, and the story-telling is worthy of it being chosen. It is a seemingly straightforward story of a pair of high school lovers who lost touch when the girl went into labor, and the guy seemed to have disappeared into thin air. The girl is Hye-hwa (Yoo Da In), and she dropped out of school because of her pregnancy, and we get flashbacks of the couple during her pregnancy, happy and carefree. Yoo Yeon Seok plays the boyfriend, Han Soo, who was actually sent away by his mother in an attempt to separate the young couple.
However, life is never easy and five years after their separation, Han Soo reappears in Hye-hwa’s life. He insists that their child is actually still alive, despite Hye-hwa’s mother told her otherwise after childbirth. Curiosity gets the better of Hye-hwa, and despite her resistance in the beginning, she tracks down her child with Han Soo.
This movie is full of symbolisms, twists, and family secrets. Dialogue is relatively sparse, but never a moment dull. The movie tracks the development of Hye-hwa, from a spunky young girl to a jaded adult, and it is obvious that she plays mother to her employer’s son, to make up for the loss of her own child. She has a strange habit too, of keeping her nail cuttings over the entire five years, in a film case. It is as if she wants to remind herself of her past, unable to throw away the burden.
Hye-hwa also devouts herself in saving abadoned dogs, perhaps also to atone for her giving up her dog and the dog’s puppies five years ago. In her decision to give up her child (before she delivered), she gave up her dog as well, a dog which was named Hye-soo, most likely a name which came from both her name and Han Soo’s. In the course of rescuing abandoned dogs, she came across one which was Hye-soo’s pup, but was never adopted because the pup hid itself away. This twist of fate probably signifies the change in Hye-hwa’s future, that she can now look after the dogs, unlike in the past. In a way, Hye-hwa has grown into a good mother despite losing her child, and the symbolism is in the form of dogs. Also, Hye-hwa’s frequent scouring of abandoned houses for wandering dogs is a good symbolisation of herself, someone who wishes to return to the past, but knows it is impossible.
Han Soo on the other hand, had me facepalm at his strange ways, and he is many kinds of wrong. I interpret the forceful separation of him from Hye-hwa had a rather deep impact on him, which resulted in his denial and subsequent quasi-psycho behavior. Yoo Yeon Seok is definitely good at playing the obsessive one-minded guy, as evident in several of his other characters (see Werewolf Boy, Reply Me 1994, Tasty Life). Han Soo borderlines at being psycho, for stalking Hye-hwa endlessly in the beginning of the film, and also the couple whom he thinks adopted his child. He also trespasses Hye-hwa’s house, and apparently he trespasses his mother’s house too, as revealed towards the end of the movie. It seems he has given up on himself, until he begins to track down his child. I interpret his persistence at finding the child as his guilt for leaving Hye-hwa when she needs him most, and it gnaws away his ability to think logically.
Re-encounter manages to hold together several different social issues that will always exist no matter when this film is being watched. The grim reality of animal abandonment, teenage pregnancies and adoption issues are handled deftly here. It is not the writer’s attempt to preach, but rather to present a realistic portrayal of the grittier side of life which may escape most people. The open ending also gives viewers room to decide how Hye-hwa’s life will be in the future, and indeed, a nicely tied-up ending will not do justice to the delicate and complicated issues the characters faced.