Tears of a Clown – Rediscovering ‘The Last Present’ / ‘Sun Mool’ (S. Korea 2001 – 113 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - January 08, 2014
Tears of a Clown – Rediscovering ‘The Last Present’ / ‘Sun Mool’ (S. Korea  2001 – 113 mins)

2001: A Korean Odyssey

The late 1990’s saw the beginning of what would become a surge in high quality movies to emerge from South Korea. A great many of them surpassed similar-themed movies from other countries. One particular year, 2001, turned out to be the most memorable for me in terms of both quality and entertainment. Some great films from that year included ‘My Sassy Girl’ ‘Take Care of my Cat’, and ‘Failan’. One title that left a lasting impression on many though, was the romantic drama ‘The Last Present’ (2001)

Yong-ki (Jung-jae Lee) is a struggling third-rate comedian, whose long-suffering wife Jung-yun (Yeong-ae Lee) discovers that she’s dying from a terminal disease. She decides never to tell him about her illness. After all, his job is to entertain people, and this amount of upset could ruin his chances in an upcoming television talent show. Later, Yong-ki discovers her condition by accident, and keeping it a secret, puts all his energy and new-found determination into becoming a success for the both of them.

Jung-jae Lee is excellent as the struggling Yong-gi. He had scored a huge hit the year before with the romantic time-travel drama ‘Il Mare’, and here he does a terrific job. His performance in the films climatic scene, where he and his comedy partner perform live on a TV talent show, while his dying wife watches proudly in the audience, is extremely moving.

Often called ‘the most desirable wife’ in Korea, Yeong-ae Lee’s heart-breaking performance is a world away from her later role in Park Chan-wook’s hard-hitting revenge flick ’Sympathy for Lady Vengeance’ (2005). In ‘The Last Present’ she is simply superb, displaying varying degrees of emotion in what must be her career-best performance. This movie also features one of the most beautiful soundtracks I have ever heard. Starting off slow and quiet, it builds to a heart-rending full orchestra of emotions.

An incredibly powerful and beautifully acted drama, ‘The Last Present’ is a jewel in South Korea’s film-making crown. Featuring one of the most stirring endings in cinema, if your eyes are still dry by the closing credits, then you weren’t really watching!

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