Lost and Found or Sweet Lies or Dal-kom-han Geo-jit-mal (2008)
When we are young, everything is new. Most of the time in the earliest years, the novelty is exciting, but interest and excitement is soon crushed out of us by our peers and the education system. There are new emotions to explore as we get our first taste of love or experience fear as bullies torment us. We lack balance. Emotional security is threatened. Because we have no perspective on the passage of time, it seems each day will never end. Looking back, time is telescoped and only the “highlights” litter our memories.
One constant affecting most of us is that we go through periods of painful shyness around the opposite sex. Annoyingly, there are always those who seem so assured and self-confident. Jealousy makes us hate those who seem so “adult” before their time. We hide away, fearing people will guess our secret crushes. There’s nothing worse than a class at school suddenly echoing with delight at a new love to proclaim.
It’s always a mystery how we manage to come through all this and grow into adults. What’s less surprising is we usually bring our childhood experiences into adulthood with us. What happened to us then is a part of us and colours our view of the world. This encourages some to walk away from school without a backward glance. That part of life is over. All the pain and embarrassment can be locked away and they need never remind themselves of the awfulness by meeting up with “old friends”. Others stay in the same part of the town and the circle of acquaintance moves from classroom into the adult world. This is a kind of trap for some who are never allowed to forget what they were like. For others it’s rather liberating because they need never pretend to be someone they’re not. They can be true to themselves and not care what people think. This is how they’ve always been and they’re not going to change for anyone.
So imagine a medium-sized town or small city where most people stay on. Not all stay in touch, of course. Class and family circumstances can encourage people to drift apart. Years may go by before they meet up again.
In Lost and Found or Sweet Lies or Dal-kom-han Geo-jit-mal, Han Ji-ho, played by Park Jin-hee, and Ko Eun-sook, played by Choi Eun-joo are best friends at school, sharing all secrets and confidences. Both are shy, but Ji-ho has elevated it to epic proportions. She’s desperately in love with Kang Min-woo, played by Lee Ki-woo. He’s walking round in a kind of dream that’s only punctured by a girl who keeps throwing herself at him, grasping his arm as if it may fall off at any moment. Then there’s Park Dong-sik played by Jo Han-seon, the boy from next door, who always seems underfoot, and the weird one with glasses who’s probably stalking her. Worse, there are all the embarrassing incidents she would rather forget like the time she put her head through the bars at the elephant enclosure in the zoo. . . Like Ji-ho, we tell ourselves lies about what it was like, editing our memories so we can live with some peace of mind.
Now we move forward ten years to find a fundamentally unhappy Ji-ho. She gets massively drunk because the TV show she helped create has just produced some of the worst ratings since record-keeping began. When she arrives at work late the next day, she’s fired. As she leaves the building, a snatch thief separates her from her bag and all tokens of identification, and then she’s knocked down by a car. On days like this, it might just be better to forget who you are, particularly if you recognise the driver as Kang Min-woo. Except, if you start off this second chance with a lie, how will it end?
Lost and Found is the type of romantic comedy it’s very easy to get wrong. You make the heroine too eccentric or the boyfriends too desperate. You relegate the best friend into stereotypical cameo appearances, while other walk-ons ham it up in the hope casting directors will notice their performances and invite them to play in their next films. In fact, Park Jin-hee is very restrained, lucky to find herself with a second chance as an adult and not quite sure what to do with it. Jo Han-seon could have become very melodramatic with jealousy, yet he manages an almost surreal detachment, playing with his own lies, but nevertheless showing commendable restraint when engaging with his rival. While Lee Ki-woo is the least changed from the rather fey boy who walked around as if in a daze. Now he’s a successful interior designer who brings light into his clients’s darkness but leaves little of himself. He’s jolted out of his serene solo progress through life and forced to ask himself who he is and whether he actually wants to find a partner.
Everyone lies to themselves and to others when it suits them. The question is how far the lies stray into self-indulgent fantasy and mislead us. For example, Lee Ki-woo may have a Cinderella complex, finding a waif by the roadside, picking her up and then wondering whether the shoes will fit. Jo Han-seon has been the steady, quiet presence in her life. He may dream they will gradually come together, but this passivity may equally cause him to lose the girl he has always loved. And she? Well she has never forgotten her first love and, through the lies, she gets close to him for the first time. But there must always come a moment when the perspective changes. What we see as children is not what we see as adults. What looks attractive from a distance may not be quite so attractive when seen close up. Reconciling truth with fantasy and deciding what we want is not something to put aside for too long. Otherwise we may plunge headlong into situations where we lose sight of what’s important to us, trapping ourselves in unhappiness when it’s too late to change course. Indeed, think about their lives. She’s drifting, never really making a success of her job, drinking too much. Lee Ki-woo may be a commercial success, but moves in a circle of wealth where snobbery and superficiality prevail. Jo Han-seon is making a living selling women’s underwear but is not a commercial success. All three are lonely. It’s like they’ve been caught in aspic — three specimens needing just the right incentive to break out of their respective prisons.
Lost and Found or Sweet Lies or Dal-kom-han Geo-jit-mal is an intelligent romantic comedy, treating the characters as human and giving them a chance to grow into their roles on-screen. Jeong Jeong-hwa (정정화) directs the screenplay he wrote with Yoo Seung-hee and produces a very satisfying human drama. Lies may get all of us into trouble and it’s only when we are mature enough to understand the process of growing up and what it does to us that we can see the way out of these problems.