Wednesday, May 9, 2007

No Regret (Korea 2006)

Discovering who you really are and finding your place in this world are supposed to be the most exciting aspects about growing up. Other times, they can be the most frightening. Somewhere along the way, we want to find someone to share our journey with. No Regret, a low-budget, independent film from director Lee Song Hee-il, is centered around these very aspects of life. Never mind the fact that the main characters are gay, or that most will refer to it as a "gay-themed" movie, because it's about more than just sexuality; it's about love and life.

Raised in a countryside orphanage for most of his life, 18-year old Lee Su-min (Young-hoon Lee) says goodbye to the only life he's known, heading to Seoul in order to pursue an education in design. After his arrival, he gets a job working at a factory, while also trying to maintain his studies. Along with his already full-schedule, Su-min takes on other "side" jobs to make ends meet. On his shift as a chauffeur, he picks up Song Jae-min (Han Lee) from a bar to take him home and Jae-min is clearly attracted to Su-min. However, Jae-min is not who he appears to be as we learn he's from a wealthy, conservative background, and is even engaged to a beautiful woman. Back at the factory, the powers that be begin letting people go, with Su-min becoming one of the unlucky ones. As he storms out, he sees that the person in charge of the factory is the young man that he took home the other night. He begins hopping from job to job, now focused more on making a living than finishing school. Frustrated, Su-min realizes he'll never make the kind of money he wants by washing dishes and mopping floors, so he sinks as low as he can by taking a job as a male prostitute at a gay bar. He isn't happy with the new career path his life has taken, but the irresistible lure of big money is too much for him to shake. We find out that Jae-min has been trying everything to find Su-min, but Su-min remembers him from the factory and wants nothing to do with him. Jae-min eventually finds Su-min at the gay bar and continues to pursue him in a downright obsessive manner. He's been living a lie his entire life and is ready to throw away everything to be with Su-min. Naturally, Jae-min's family isn't going to accept their son's wishes without a fight.

No Regret presents the old formula of "opposites-attract" in a serious way, with the concept of love being explored to extreme ends. Sure, love is a wonderful thing, but it can also hurt, and even drive people to lengths they never knew they were capable of...sometimes with tragic results. To say that the performances in No Regret are amazing would be an understatement. Young-hoon Lee gives an award-winning performance as Lee Su-min, displaying acting chops and a range of emotion that you'd expect out of a seasoned veteran, not from someone making his film debut. Han Lee is just as impressive as the tortured Song Jae-min, but both actors really seem to put everything they have on the line in these roles and it shows. As his second film, director Lee Song Hee-il really seems to understand that next to a good story, deep and involving characters are the most important things in making a movie great. The film has a great gritty look to it that manages to match the story perfectly. No Regret has a cast that may do things that you might not do, or agree with, but everything plays out in a convincing manner and that's what matters in the end.

Understandably, No Regret isn't going to be at the top of everyone's "must-see" list due to its gritty nature and explicit sex scenes. Heck, let's be honest, many people won't watch it because it's a "gay" movie. I can only feel sorry for those that limit themselves, but I know it's not always easy to step outside your comfort zone. However, if your a person who can do just that, and you're a fan of movies with an engaging storyline and top-notch performances, then I can promise that No Regret will deliver in both areas, and possibly even change your perception of what a great movie can be. (Lee)

Buy No Regret on DVD at YESASIA!

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