An ordinary man is depressed and in a slump in life after losing his job. His wife is a career woman and between them they are trying to bring up their daughter, with the tension and friction between them rising. The wife is having an affair with a man who was her first love and with her home life growing steadily worse, her emotions are torn over who she should be with. Should she be ruled by her happiness or the welfare of her daughter? Her husband slowly starts to notice that something is not right and then he too must come to a decision over his relationship with his wife.
Happy End is quite a slow paced drama, focusing on the relationships Bora has with the men - her husband and her lover. The film opens with a fairly graphic sex scene involving Bora and the latter and immediately sets the tone for their relationship. We learn of her happiness and feelings of freedom when she is with him, but we also see sides of her jealousy as at times she clearly suspects he's also seeing someone else. Rather hypocritical of her, I think.
Her husband is a self-pitying, jobless bum, who does nothing but sit at home watching soap operas and reading romance novels in a local book store. He doesn't lift a finger to help around the house and does little to help with the looking after of his daughter. With his successful wife supporting him financially, he seems reluctant to make a concerted effort to find a new job. Despite his lack of input in his daughter's upbringing, when he does put the effort in, he is a very loving and caring father, giving indication that the way he is portrayed throughout the film is not really his true self, but the depressed man he has become since being made unemployed.
The third party is Bora's first love Il-beom. Conveniently he is also currently working for Bora as a web designer, giving them plenty of time together. As the film progresses he becomes more infatuated and obsessed with her, trying to carve himself a bigger part in her life and convince her to leave her husband. He's better looking (or so I've read elsewhere) and currently more ambitious, driven and passionate.
The first two thirds of the film are mainly about Bora and her feelings from having the adulteress affair. While exceptionally happy when she is with Il-beom, she is plagued by feelings of guilt towards her husband and daughter for what she is doing. She's on the proverbial and clichéd roller-coaster ride of emotions, but with no clear idea of what she really wants to do. The latter third focuses more on her husband as he begins to suspect that she is cheating on him with another man. He finds little clues that he records and pieces together until it is conclusive. His only dilemma left after that is simply, what is he going to do?
The film is a good character piece, with each character being entirely believable, and quite likely displaying situations that are relatively common place in real life. The lack of honesty in the marriage can be seen through the barrier and lack of passion that exists between the couple. Credit for such believable characters has to go to both the actors and the script writers. The script is devoid of the usual drama clichés, and while not exciting, the slow gradual build up is well thought out and written. The actors and actress are all equal to the script, portraying the necessary emotions and pain with conviction and credibility.
A slow paced drama, with believable characters and a surprising ending is what Happy End is all about. The title may be placed in irony, as through the actions that take place you have to question whether anyone is truly happy at the end. Despite all the plus points, I have to admit that there wasn't quite enough there, not even the two sex scenes, to keep me entirely engaged for the whole running time. It is a decent film, even slightly above average, but it is unlikely to be one that I'd come back to again.
Audio & Subtitles
A Korean DD 5.0 soundtrack is the only option available to you when watching the film. To be honest, a surround sound system isn't even necessary here, as there is little to nothing to spread around the speakers. There may be the occasional car engine from the surrounds but little else. I certainly didn't notice much.
The subtitles were of a fairly decent standard. There were only a few spelling and grammar errors that I can recall. If there were more, then they were not distracting at all. However, there was the odd missing line of text. Again this wasn't that distracting as I don't think anything important was missed, but it was still slightly annoying.
The picture quality also leans on the good side of decent. The letterboxed print didn't have much in the way of dirt on the film and colours seemed quite well reproduced. Contrast levels were ok and detail seemed decent, not too soft but not that sharp.
DVD & Extras
Stars' Files and a trailer are all you've got here. You feel spoilt with such a feast, don't you?!
Dramas have never really been my cup of tea in the film world. Occasionally I see a very good one that affects me in a way that surprises me. Happy End is not nearly at that level, but there is a decent film here. I've used that word 'decent' quite a lot in this review and is a suitable summary for this film.