“Always” (오직 그대만)

Always2

By Jae-Ha Kim
jaehakim.com
January 6, 2016

3 stars

Chul Min (played by So Ji-Sub)
Jung Hwa (played by Han Hyo-Joo)

Note: Korean names denote the surname followed by the given name.

Don’t let these sunny photos fool you. “Always” (오직 그대만)  just about broke my heart.

After spending 4½ years in prison, Chul Min is trying to turn his life around. Working multiple jobs to make ends up, the former boxer starts a new position as a night-time parking attendant. There, he meets Jung Hwa, who has grown accustomed to “watching” TV shows with the previous elderly attendant. Though she lost her sight – -and her parents — in a horrific car accident, she enjoys having the visuals described to her and sharing snacks.

During one of their conversations, she asks him if he is handsome. Since Chul Min is portrayed by So Ji Sub, the answer — of course — is yes. But he says, “People tell me that I look manly.”

Smiling, Jung Hwa says, “Ah, that means you’re not very good looking.”

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As vivacious and optimistic as Chul Min is sullen, Jung Hwa’s glass-half-full outlook on life begins to rub off on him. Their friendship progresses along nicely into romance, with Chul Min wanting to become a better man for her.

But when he saves her from being assaulted by her boss and severely beats him, Jung Hwa begs him to stop. Even though he saved her from being raped, her fear was that she would be fired. Jobs are so difficult to come by in South Korea. For people with disabilities, they are nearly impossible.

Viewers learn what Jung Hwa doesn’t know. After his boxing career ended, Chul Min worked as an enforcer collecting debts and severely beat people who couldn’t pay. During one such collection, his desperate victim set himself on fire. Chul Min tried to save him just as the police arrived and arrested him for attempted murder.

Always

When Jung Hwa has the opportunity to get surgery to restore her vision, Chul Min tells her he has some savings to cover the procedure. Through his boxing connections, he signs up for a illegal ultimate fight in Thailand where he will earn $30,000, if he isn’t killed in the fight. He wins, but ends up crippled by the criminals who never thought he would survive the tournament.

Jung Hwa, meanwhile, resumes her sculpting career and makes a fine living with her creations. (And, yes, I couldn’t help but think of Lionel Richie’s video for “Hello” during her sculpting scenes.)

For two years, Jung Hwa has no idea where he is. When they are reunited, she doesn’t realize who he is, but her dog does.

Both So and Han Hyo Joo are appealing in their roles. They convey the right emotions, without being maudlin or resorting to histrionics.

Some might say that the ending to this 2011 film was cheesy, but I found it to be delightful and full of hope.

Spoiler alert:

We learn in the movie that Jung Hwa’s parents were killed in the same car accident that left her blind. The last scene she remembers before their car crashed was watching as a burning man fell out of a building. The man was the one who Chul Min had beat up, and then tried to save. Before he jumped, he told Chul Min to change his life — that the way he was suriving was no way to live.

It wasn’t just love that spurred him to the underground fight in Thailand, but also guilt. Once he realized that he was responsible for Jung Hwa losing her sight, he knew he was also responsible for making things right. And, in the end, I believe he finds a bit of redemption.

Release date: October 20, 2011.

Running time: 106 minutes.

© 2016 JAE-HA KIM | All Rights Reserved

Comments (5)

  1. Melanie Santiago says:

    II loved this movie. I saw it when it came out and it was so good! I need to rewatch it now. The ending almost crippled me watching JiSub limping along. Poor (hot) guy. 🙂

  2. Vanessa says:

    First time commenter! I’m loving your KDrama reviews. I just had to jump in and say that one of my favorite parts of this movie is that she was very blunt with him but never in a mean way. When she asked him to open the window because it smelled, the way he kept sniffing himself and trying to make his feet smell less stinky was priceless! This couple had soooo much amazing chemistry. Loved it! Oh, and if they want to make the workout scene of So JiSub training longer, that’s fine by me. Hee hee.

  3. Sandra in England says:

    OMG Jae. I cried throughout this movie. So good! Gave me the feels!

  4. Tiff says:

    Are those his real tattoos? They were really cool.

  5. Audry says:

    This movie broke my heart! It was so good and sad. At the end, did he actually say I love you to her or was that him just thinking it.I hope he wasn’t mute and could actually talk. Ugh, I wanted to beat up that boxer “friend” of his who set him up.

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