Monday, September 19, 2011

Movie Review: Sky and Ocean (2009)

Believe it or not this movie was premiered back in October 2009 and download links were only up just this weekend. How crazy is that? That aside, here's my review on the movie Sky and Ocean. So was it worth the wait?

The movie opens in a cute little apartment filled with stars as Haneul (Jang Nara) "conducts" her cat, Beatles, in her living room. Right from the start we realize that Haneul is not an ordinary person, in a good way and in a bad way. The good way is that she is a genius in numbers and the violin. The bad way is that she is mentally only 6 years old and is an orphan. She identifies herself as a fairy and her apartment as a fairyland. The scene then shifts a concert where Bada (Jyuni) is seen dancing along with the music. She is a college student who wanted to succeed in a band but lost motivation as her parents are abandoning her. On the other hand Jingyu (Yoo Ah-in), a ne'er-do-well pizza delivery guy, decides to scam Haneul by charging a pizza $100. The story goes through the development of each character as they become better people. I personally think it's safe to say that the story mainly rotates around Haneul who is the person that united the three characters together. In the end Haneul, who lived a confined life guided by only her violin teacher, gains true friends and starts performing violin in front of a crowd. Bada learns that her dad still cared for her by leaving the apartment for her. Jingyu becomes a technician, something he is good at, and finally (at least that's what it seems) leaves his stealing, scamming ways for good.

Did that synopsis sound really crappy? Well, that's pretty much how I saw this movie and pretty much reflects my attitude towards this movie. Usually when a movie has a character like Haneul, someone with a disability and later on manages to overcome those obstacles, one would automatically think that this movie will be somewhat inspiring. At the end of the 100 minutes, I was feeling more empty than I did before I clicked play. Yes, even the cuteness that is Mr. Yoo couldn't save it from drowning. The storyline was bland and was probably written with a manual to writing an "inspirational" script. The acting was good, but didn't wow me. The camerawork was okay, but some scenes question me. The directing was choppy. I mean what's up with the 5 minutes of Jang floating in white space? I know it's supposed to represent how her mind perceives the world when she's listening to music or whatever, but it could've been cut down a little shorter and a little less like an advertisement. I felt really uncomfortable watching it.

A major problem, okay maybe not so major but a big one at least, that I found in this movie is the character development. I felt that it was very forced and I didn't feel like they even developed at all, at least in a natural sense. As viewers we didn't see them overcome conflict to become the person they are at the end. For example, Bada didn't trust Haneul at all and thought she was a lunatic in the beginning and a few Wons on the home shopping channel and a car ride later, she treated Haneul like a best friend. I know it's supposed to tell us that she has opened her heart to this "lunatic" but acting like they've been besties since pre-K is uncool. But the worst development, I think, is Jingyu. A flashback made him quit his stealing habit that he had for years for good? You have got to be kidding me. I feel like this character was written for the sole purpose of female viewers out there, myself included. Yoo Ah-in is supposed to be the eye candy. Who cares if his character development sucks. They know that the ladies love turning a bad boy into a sweet angel in a snap and that's what they decided to do. Boo, writers, boo.

Aside from the poor character development, I found that the characters really have no depth. They only show one emotion at a time, like their hearts and judgements are an open book. This isn't meant to be a serious movie or anything but flat characters turn me off. It was so flat that I was questioning myself why I even bothered watching this movie. (The answer is solely for Yoo Ah-in, of course). I'm not saying the acting was bad, it was good to say the least, but how the characters were written is frustrating. I was even rooting for the pizza owner more who didn't even have a storyline, played by Lee Won-jong who I can never watch with a straight face again since Dasepo Naughty Girls. At least he was sincere and believable.

At the end of the day this movie isn't all horrendous, even though it is really hard for me to pinpoint one excellent thing about it. But amongst the mediocre, there are some goods. I really appreciate how they extensively play classical music, which is always good. The locations are also very pretty. Almost as pretty as the actors themselves. Despite the really bad writing, the actors actually managed to make this movie somewhat entertaining to watch. The producers are smart, there are the right people for each demographics: pedophiles men who love a cutesy Jang Nara, boys who love the sexy Jyuni, and every girl and woman who loves Yoo Ah-in. At the end of the day, the world is fair.

The following few paragraphs will be a somewhat in depth look criticizing solely of the character Haneul from a psychological point of view. Or at least what I have learned in the past 2 years of college. So if you don't care whatsoever about all the scientific terms, go ahead and skip to the very last paragraph for the ratings. If you're curious, don't mind, or is just bored out of your wits with nothing to do and you decide to read on, then bear with me. Take a deep breath and continue.

One thing I'd like to point out is how Jang materializes the character Haneul. Her character is supposed to be a genius in violin and numbers but is 6 years old mentally. We can assume that she has a savant syndrome or at least some form of that. My biggest problem with her portrayal is how she communicates with others. Having a mind of a 6-year-old doesn't only mean she talks with a childish pitch and speech (did she talk like a child, Korean speakers out there?), but also making eye contact like a 6-year-old. In the movie, Haneul will talk to others, which is basically a grown-up in her mind, and make direct eye contact. Most 6-year-olds won't even dare to look at an adult stranger's in the eye. Even as she becomes close to the other characters, her lack of communication skills will make it uncomfortable for her to make direct eye contact with others. Maybe this whole eye contact problem is just me but personally I found it really essential in order to portray the character right.

Another scene, again with the Haneul character, is when she was confessing to her parents at the grave. I know this is supposed to be tear inducing for the purpose of the story, but I feel like it's betraying the true aspects of her disorder. According to Piaget's theory of cognitive development, a 6-year-old is ideally in the preoperational stage. Since she is mentally a 6-year-old, this is going to be my benchmark. One of the characteristics a child at this stage has is his/her egocentric thinking. That means this child can't think beyond what he/she is perceiving at that very moment and can't think how another person would think of that same thing. How did she even know that her parents died? As far as I was told throughout this movie, Haneul was told by Ms. Min, the violin teacher, that her parents went away. Ask any kid that their parents went away and I doubt they'll automatically associate with death. And even if she did know that her parents died, a child that age doesn't fully understand the concept of death yet. They would assume that death is like going to the store and they'll return eventually. I personally found this scene to be very off, even more off that the whole direct eye contact problem. I hate it when a story just has to take this turn, make the character seem like your average adult making them suddenly understand about death, or shame, or value of friendship, or other vague concepts.

I know it's not essential to the storyline, but as a student of science, I find this unacceptable. I don't want to blame anyone, well at least not individually, but it would've been nice if they did a little more research on this whole issue. I mean seriously, who would leave a person like Haneul to live by herself without a live-in guardian? In the real world a person like Jingyu would've taken all her belongings and kidnap her and everything. Not cool. I recommend watching the movie Marathon (2005) which shows a great depiction of an autistic person.

I was really disappointed by this movie. There are just so many things that could have been. No wonder it was pulled off from theaters prematurely. The premise sounded promising and the actors are great at what they do (God bless their souls), but these things can't help the poor storyline and choppy directing. What a shame. And to answer the question I gave in the above, no it wasn't worth the wait. The final verdict? I gave it so because I thought it was watchable, I wasn't restless in my seat, but it was uninspiring despite the premise. It was too sweet for comfort and doesn't give any health benefits, and I like sweets so it says a lot. I will be a little evil today and give it a 5. Maybe on other days it could be a 6 but I doubt it because, well, I won't even watch it again. Maybe just skip to the parts with Mr. Yoo in it ;D

Final verdict: 5/10


  1. ~tinysunbl here~

    Awesome review! Would you allow me to re-post this review on Haven? This is too good to be missed. One feedback I have is that the story narration should be in present tense. I noticed that you use a lot of past tense when retelling the fact of the story.

    Haha I gave up finding logics from the mental conditions of Jang Na Ra's character. It feels like the script forces her character upon us the entire time, like anything she does we have to accept it's innocence and cuteness and inspiration and whatever. Skipping to the parts with sik is a good strategy :)

  2. @tiny

    Yay congratulations on being the first person who commented! *confetti* I'll take your feedback and edit it right away. My grammar tends to go all over the place for things like this so thanks for pointing it out! And about posting it on Haven, I'd love it! But if it's okay I'd like to do it by myself because the whole psychology part would be a little spammy and perhaps a little too long if I put it on Haven. What do you think?