Movie Review: Soulmate (소울메이트)

It seems to be popular these days for filmmakers in east Asia to remake each other’s films. The latest example of that is the South Korean film, SOULMATE, which is the remake of the 2016 Chinese film with almost the same name, SOUL MATE (七月与安生), by then first-time solo director Derek Tsang/曾國祥. That same year, Tsang’s film picked up seven Golden Horse Film Award nominations and it became the first film ever to receive a joint Best Actress award for its two leads.

Min Yong-keun/민용근’s first film in ten years differs from Tsang’s version but it follows a similar arc. Told in flashback, Mi-so (Kim Da-mi/김다미) and Ha-eun (Jeon So-nee/전소니) meet in school on the quiet southern island of Jeju when they’re 13 and become immediate best friends. The two girls couldn’t be more different though. Mi-so is as free-spirited as her wayward mother, who dumps her child and returns to Seoul right away, while Ha-eun comes from a warm and loving family and is well-grounded. The pair share an interest in art but while Ha-eun has a knack for drawing hyper-realistic pictures, Mi-so likes to draw what the eyes can’t see. As different as they are, they complement each other perfectly. Their relationship starts to develop cracks, though, when they reach high school and Ha-eun falls for Jin-woo (Byeon Woo-seok/변우석) and he for her. Mi-so takes off to see the world and Ha-eun stays close to home to become a teacher. Over the next decade, their paths, along with Jin-woo’s, continue to cross, leading to a few surprising revelations.

I’ll admit that I haven’t seen the Chinese film so I can’t compare the two but SOULMATE on its own merits is pretty good entertainment. Unfortunately, the bad wigs and freckles that the director puts on the two actresses to age them down is bit OTT and the big plot twist stretches the bounds of credibility but, overall, the women’s solid performances go a long way to make audiences believe that their characters’ yin-yang relationship is possible. The film’s strength, though, lies in its cinematography by Kang Gook-hyun/강국현. The photo that Ha-eun takes of Mi-so when they are teenagers, which is used as the basis for a piece of art that is shown at the start of the film, is absolutely stunning. The actress should use it as her headshot from now on.

Even though SOULMATE plays it safe and stays away from such edgy topics as homosexuality and child abandonment, I still enjoyed it more than I expected I would. It’s clearly targeted to the teenage/young adult demographic so it’s sure to do well at the box office both at home and abroad.

SOULMATE opened in South Korea in mid-March and is playing in Hong Kong’s cinemas now.

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Soulmate (소울메이트)

  1. how’s homosexuality is an edgy topic? also who do you think are the soulmate in the question? you clearly don’t have understanding of girls’ very complex homoerotic friendships that causes miscommunications often times. just cause something isn’t explicitly said it doesn’t mean it isn’t heavily implied.

    1. In this part of the world, homosexuality is an edgy topic. Please do not claim to understand what I understand or do not understand. No offense was intended on my part.

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