An Affair (Jung sa) [1998] • South Korea

So-Hyun is a thirty-eight year old woman unhappy with her life. We can see it in her eyes but nowhere else. The only clue we get is that her husband fails to notice that the electrical wiring in her kitchen needs a complete overhaul. Never underestimate the bond between woman and kitchen, I guess. When her more than a decade younger sister's fiancé shows up things get tense. Her sister and the fiancé had been living in the States but the sister has not returned to Korea just yet. This gives So-Hyun the opportunity to have sex with the fiancé.

So-Hyun is portrayed wonderfully introspectively middle-aging by veteran actress Lee Mi-Suk, but the burden falls upon her to play the whole scenario out inside her head and inform us through her eyes. The film itself doesn't help. Directed with the rugged determination and overbearing woe-is-me of a bad stage play the film does a reasonable job suggesting that reasons for the affair might well exist outside its universe but fails to put them on screen.

The fiancé, miscast by a mile and played woodenly by Lee Jung-Jae, has about as much charm as a turnip. He has a typical guy job, which we see him engaged in once, of telling other people what to do. Beyond that he just stands around with his hands in the pockets of his high-waisted pants, brooding. Javier Bardem, he's not. It's impossible to fathom why So-Hyun would hurt so many people who are more important to her than this guy, by not only having sex with him, but also falling in love with him. A lot of the responsibility for the failure of this film is due to this casting error.

I suppose we're to come away with the notion that it wasn't him she fell in love with as much as the idea of falling in love, of falling in love with someone before she gets any older and the possibility of requited love eludes her. In a scene harrowing for its gross out factor the fiancé pretty much lays out this argument for her: "You'll get old. No one will pay you any mind. You'll be sick with no one to tell you they love you. And you won't have any more chances to love. Tell me you love me ." Eew.


Director: Je-yong Lee
Starring: Lee Jung-Jae, Lee Mi-Suk


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