Watching Recalled is like putting together a thousand pieces of a complex puzzle, with only a few clues, without knowing the resulting image. Confusing, frustrating at times, but if you like puzzles, the process of solving them is fun, and it’s also rewarding when you finally succeed. And of course, Recalled has what only South Korean filmmakers can achieve, which is a solid mix of thriller-mystery, with heart-warming family drama.
The opening act may be full of suddenness. Either an introduction to Soo-jin (Seo Yea-ji) who lost her memory after an accident, or an explanation about the investigation of two police officers (played by Bae Yoo-ram and Park Sang-wook) into a case. We go straight to the heart of the story, without knowing what accident happened to Soo-jin, nor the details of the case that the two police officers are investigating. It provokes confusion at the beginning, but as the facts unfold, we will find out later, that ignorance is essential to the narrative. Best Movie Site
Soo-jin who is recovering, goes home with her husband, Ji-hoon (Kim Kang-woo). Even though her memory is blurry, it seems Soo-jin is having a happy life. Ji-hoon is a great husband, and they’re about to start a new chapter in Canada. Until Soo-jin starts experiencing strange phenomena. He can see the future, especially with regard to death. The question arises, does Soo-jin really have powers, or is it just a hallucination due to a wound that has not completely healed?
Having an amnesiac protagonist, it’s no surprise when Recalled holds a lot of surprises. The formula has not abandoned the concept of “facts are not what they appear on the surface”. If you often consume films with similar themes, it’s easy to guess the answer that the film hides, based on a series of clues that are spread throughout the duration, both in the form of photos, to flashes of memory of the protagonist.
Not that Recalled bad. Rather, it means that Seo Yoo-min’s script (also sitting in the director’s chair), presents the mystery without having to deceive the audience. We are invited to think with Soo-jin, and thanks to the existence of the clue, no matter how complex a question, it can always be solved through the analysis process. Yoo-min’s writing is neat. Although scattered like shards of glass, the script is able to make all elements of the mystery presented clearly, easily digested once each piece has been found, while leaving room for small surprises in every corner of the story. Movie Review
It’s not perfect. The script still leaves a number of holes, including the absurd impression that the hospital and police are too gullible, as well as the use of coincidences to break the line between reality and hallucination. Not to the point of being destructive, thanks to the solid direction of Seo Yoo-min, who moves the plot quickly, but carefully. Dynamic, not rushed, not messy, so as to maintain the enthusiasm of the audience in following the story.
But as I mentioned above, as a typical South Korean product, Recalled’s biggest advantage lies in its ability to inject emotional drama into mystery-thrillers. There was death, there was bloodshed, but in the end, it was the audience’s heart that was the most torn apart. Without changing the narrative form to an extreme (suddenly transforming into a melodrama, for example), the third act conveys about familial love, and the process of a woman getting out of an abusive relationship. The last shot proves the sensitivity of Korean filmmakers in conjuring a simple event into a feeling of warmth.
The success of Recalled is certainly inseparable from the appearance of Seo Yea-ji. In both movies and dramas, Yea-ji is good at translating pain (physical too, but especially psychological) so that the audience can feel what her character feels, then sympathize. There is a melancholy hidden behind her hypnotic beauty and makes me almost faint in the cinema but not weakness, because tenacity always radiates along with that melancholy. Unfortunately, due to the savagery of journalism, sexist culture, plus the lack of understanding of mental health in South Korea, we may not know when we will have the opportunity to witness its greatness again. Top Movie