The directorial debut of Hur Jin-ho and best known for sweeping the 1998 Korean Film Awards -- Christmas in August is a drama/romance film with a plot (not to mention title) that is quite similar to a popular Hollywood movie, Autumn in New York, which was probably inspired by this movie since it came out 2 years later. Although both movies deal with lovers and fatal illnesses, that's where the similarity ends.
Much like the abovementioned movie, Christmas in August is about a man named Jung-won (South Korean superstar Suk-kyu Han of Shiri) -- a 30 year-old owner of a photo shop somewhere in the outskirts of South Korea that's diagnosed by a terminal illness. And unlike most "about to die" characters in movies he doesn't go around telling everyone that he's going to die anytime soon (only his father and sister knows) and he doesn't run away from it. Instead, he spends his time developing pictures at his photo shop and hanging out with his friends and family -- all with a smile on his face seemingly not worried of his impending doom.
One day, a young meter maid named Da-rim (a Korean legend herself Eun-ha Shim) visits his shop to have photos of traffic violators printed. She becomes a regular visitor to the shop daily and they become close day-by-day. Amazingly, you can feel the strong bond in their relationship yet not a single word expressing their feelings for each other is hurled -- even those of the physical side (ie. hugs, kisses) are absent. Also, Jung-won doesn't inform her about his disease and that's because he doesn't want that to ruin their enjoyment -- and after all, if he dies you know she's going to be emotionally shattered, and Jung-won doesn't want that to happen. Jung-won's refusal to reveal his illness is tested when he's hospitalized mid-way through the movie and is unable to return to his shop - their regular meeting place. How Jung-won exercises self-restraint becomes a prevailing theme until the end of the movie and no amount of words can describe what happens there.
A very beautiful movie and of all the South Korean movies I've watched this one is head and shoulders above all of them. I know that I throw the phrase "highly recommended" in my nodes, but I'm really serious when I say this movie is "highly recommended".
Movie names: Christmas in August, Palwol ui Christmas
Country: South Korea
Release date: 1998
Director: Jin-ho Hur
Running time: 97 min.