“The Windmill Palm Grove” is a relatively unknown Korean film directed and written by Yu Sang-wook. The main cast includes Kim Min-jong, mostly known for the Korean drama “A gentleman’s dignity”, Kim Yu-mi, who was nominated for the title of Best New Actress at the 42nd Baeksang Awards for her role in this film, and Jo Eun-sook.
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The film starts with a businesswoman named Choi Sung-joo, played by Lee Ah-hyun, stopping a bus leaving for Gangneung from Seoul, in order to get in. Inside the bus is Kim In-seo, a profound patent lawyer, played by Kim Min-jong. Choi Sung-joo met Kim In-seo the previous day through a matchmaking arranged by his mother, and she decides to go after him. She sits beside him and asks him to tell her about the woman from the Geojae island that he still has in his mind. Kim In-seo tells her the story of how he met that woman a couple of years ago.
This story unfolds through flashbacks starting with the day that Kim In-seo steps a foot on Geojae island to work as a patent right counselor for the branch of a shipbuilding company located on the island. There he meets the woman that he cannot get out of his mind. This woman is Hwa-yeon, played by Kim Yu-mi, and is a local, low class woman working in the wielding sector of the shipbuilding company. She lives with her grandmother Shim Bong-ae, played by Cho Eun-sook, and her sick mother, Jung-soon, also played by Kim Yu-mi. Kim In-seo asks Kim Yu-mi to be his girlfriend for one year.
Yu Sang-wook directs a film which is a great example of what a melodramatic movie should be like. Many scenes are truly heartfelt, but the one that stands out occurs when the young Shim Bong-Ae finds an emotional shelter in the room of her stepdaughter, who is merely a few years younger than she is.. The contrast between the pain of her separation from her brother, due to her marriage to an older man, and the happiness of Jung-soon, who is lonely and finds a new friend, is presented in an exceptional scene. This need to create relationships (romantic ones, or among friends or relatives, blood related or not) is one of the major themes of the movie.
Another main theme, which is highlighted by Yu Sang-yook from the beginning of the film, is the impact unkempt promises have on people’s life and on the lives of the people around them.. However, the characters in the film still accept such promises, even though deep inside them they know that they are baseless, because they give hope for the future. The general pessimistic theme, with the unfilled promises and the lost hopes, is balanced by the open ended scene, which is a smart choice by the director.
Yu Sang-yook also shows how falling in love can change someone’s persona and decisions. Choi Sung-joo, who is a strong independent businesswoman, still chooses to stalk and follow Kim In-seo, whom she just met the day before, an act that is completely out of her character, as her secretary stresses. Kim In-seo, who was a cynic and shallow man and wanted to have a relationship only for one year with Kim Yu-mi,afterwards, he wants to marry her and he even introduces her to his parents. And finally, Kim Yu-mi, who knew first hand that falling in love and believing in promises led her mother to sickness, still, when she fell in love, she chose to believe the false promises of a man for a first time.
“The Windmill Palm Grove” is a deeply moving film that every fan of melodramatic movies should watch