Director: Kim Jung-kwon
Starring: Yu Ji-tae, Kim Ha-neul, Ha Ji-won
In 1979, young university student So-eun (Kim Ha-neul) comes into possession of a HAM radio and, while trying to learn how to use it, meets Ji In (Yoo Ji-tae). Starting correspondence, they discover some odd things about each other and discover that Ji In is from over 20 years in the future! As they share experiences over the radio, a friendship is born that enables them to confide in each other fully. When a surprising connection is discovered to exist between them however, the truth threatens to destroy their friendship.
Kim Jeong-gweon directs some, at the time, hot young talent in this sentimental and fantasy laden story about two people separated by time. With a clear eye, shots are clean and the weight of perspective and framing is very important in the course of telling this story. There isn’t anything too adventurous but it suits the film and keeps focus on the characters well enough.
Kim and Yoo play the two friends separated by time and each carry their roles well. Kim’s So-eun is sweet and generally no nonsense but has a difficult time seeing anything past her crush Donghee (Park Yong-woo). When she makes an unbelievable acquaintance in Ji, she is happy to have a male friend in whom she can confide. Ji, himself dealing with an over interested admirer (Ha Ji-won), seems immediately taken with So-eun and is much more accepting of the romanticism involved with their situation. A weak point, unfortunately, is when they have their extended conversations over the radio. They speak slowly and it never feels exactly right for natural conversation between friends. Their scenes outside of the nighttime talks are much better when dealing with their own issues and discoveries. There is some great physical action in the final act that sees the leads with little dialogue and a lot of body language to emote feeling amd sentiment.
The music is quite good with a nice soundtrack that features some great pieces of classical music. Fitting well with events on screen, it isn’t necessarily amazing but it more than adequately serves the storytelling. The period of the past is represented well; clothing is accurate and aging between periods looks natural and believable. Surprisingly dating the film, the “modern” day segments really look like late 90s/early 2000s Korea; dyed hair, earrings, and odd looking clothing matchups. It was indeed an odd time but it is captured here, for better or worse.
Kim Ha-neul and Yoo Ji-tae have become superstars in the years since, but Ditto was probably my first exposure to the two and it, despite any technical flaws which may exist, remains a sweet little drama that was one of my “gateway” films into the world of Korean cinema. While I can’t honestly say this is a stellar picture, it is a very competently done romantic drama with an interesting premise and likable actors; in the end, what’s there to really complain about?
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Il Mare and/or Crazy First Love