Ad Lib Night 아주 특별한 손님 (Aju teukbyeolhan sonnim) (2006) • South Korea

Yoon-ki Lee is a sit back and observe kind of auteur, a method he used to great effect when he directed Kim Ji-su in This Charming Girl. There is no one the caliber of that actress here, and character studies need strong actors to make them shine. Han Hyo-ju, the lead actress in Ad Lib Night is charming and competent, if perhaps a little low-key, but the film focuses on too many of her ad-lib family members at the expense of a clear center, spreading the interest too thin.

The story is intriguing, though. Han Hyo-ju plays a young woman enlisted by two men to play the role of a dying man's estranged daughter. She looks just like the dying man's real daughter and the two men assume she can fill in undetected because the dying man's mind and eyesight are decaying rapidly. The men want to give the dying man his last wish of seeing his daughter before he passes. It's unclear why the girl accepts the challenge or why she ends up taking it more seriously than the real family members do, or expect her to. Her revelation at the end of the film is more like a postscript than a movie explaining motivation.

The film is slow paced, getting a little lost in the middle amidst the family gathering, but there's nothing deal-breakingly wrong with the film. If it had been more tightly controlled, the revelation at the end might have tied things up with better results. I will probably watch it again, as I am a big fan of This Charming Girl and the director's 2008 film My Dear Enemy. I think knowing the girl's motivation from the beginning may result in a different viewing experience.

Director: Yoon-ki Lee
Starring: Hyo-ju Han, Il-hwa Choi, Ju-bong Gi, Jung-ki Kim, Young-min Kim



  1. I am a big fan of "this charming girl" as well, but I think this one is at least as good...

  2. I think "This Charming Girl" succeeded because Lee kept the focus tight ... on the girl. "Ad Lib Night" went a little broad and lost some impact. It's good, but not 'as good'.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it. ;)

  3. Like you said, this movie actually not about the girl, it's about the family she visits. She is just a personification of the viewer, a medium through which we get to see a mourning family. By being such, she also serves as the link between the movie and our very own experiences.