|Ho woo shi jul 2009 China, South Korea A Good Rain Knows|
A Good Rain Knows is nice to look at. It's photographed in crisp and bright colors and makes great use of it's locale, Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan Province. It's got dancing in a downtown square, bamboo groves, even a scene with a panda bear. Gao Yuanyuan as Mei, a tourist guide in a Chengdu park, has never looked more radiant. Jung Woo-sung is a South Korean heartthrob but his acting ability is curious. He always seems nervous. He plays an architect, Dongha, who travels to Chengdu on assignment and runs into Mei, an old and dear friend. There is no plot to speak of, just the unfolding of their past and present relationship that gives the film its purpose.
Dongha, a Korean, and Mei, a Chinese, communicate almost exclusively in English. Since their relationship is presented as fragile and tentative, and since Jung is a nervous actor anyway, having them communicate in broken but understandable English is a stroke of genius from director Hur. If you're bothered or unmoved by the stilted verbiage the film won't work.
In typical Hur fashion, and this film sees him in perfect stride, not much happens. We're presented with a couple characters testing the water to see if, when, and how love will factor into their relationship. The lens slowly gets closer, revealing inner layers, until a small explosion occurs. And in typical Hur fashion this explosion takes place far beneath the surface. We know it's a big one but all we see are the rippling aftershocks (hint) on the surface.
Hur is a fascinating director. In some ways his films are just cheesy romances with questionable soundtracks, but he possesses an emotional intelligence and an eye for subtle soul-searching details that make his films powerful when he gets it right. He gets it right this time. A good rain knows when to fall.
Summary: Dong-ha is a thirty-something Korean man on a business trip to Chengdu, China where his company is carrying out construction projects to rebuild the city after the earthquake of 2008. There, totally by chance, he meets an old friend from his school days in the U.S. May is originally from Chengdu, and she has come back here after graduation and now works as a tour guide. Dong-ha and May were perhaps more than friends and had feelings for each other then, but they parted ways before they had a chance to define or declare them. Now that they are thrown on each other's path again, however, they find that the old feelings remain and new ones are forming and that they resemble love.