Slow-plodding and sort-of likeable, A Good Rain Knows doesn’t leave much of an impression.
“I remember you being boring.”
Reconnections can be tough. Sometimes you’ve spent years imagining somebody as someone completely different to who they are. Disappointment is common, especially if love is involved, but sometimes it can work. Looking back at past mistakes, and potentially getting the chance to start fresh can be both an exciting and terrifying prospect, especially when it’s been so much time since.
This is the problem faced by architect Park Dong-ha (Jung Woo-sung), while on a business trip to Chengu, China following the 2008 earthquake. While being shown the sights by associate Ji (Kim Sang-ho), they bump into an old friend from their college days in the US. She is May (Gao Yuanyuan), a tour guide who moved back to her hometown after college. The two begin to reconnect over time, reminiscing on times they had feelings for one another but never acted on them and soon, a romance blooms.
What this movie has going for it is the leads, who are charming and perfectly watchable. Jung Woo-sung and Gao Yuanyuan make a good pairing and have decent, if not particularly explosive, chemistry, and Kim Sang-Ho is fun as the comic relief, who brings much-needed levity when the scene drags on for too long … which it sometimes does. A Good Rain Knows (also known as A Season of Good Rain) originally started as a short as part of an anthology, and I think it should have stayed that way.
Perhaps one of the issues comes from the fact that neither character speaks in their native tongue as they interact with one another. It makes the whole thing a little bit awkward and means that the stars don’t get as much of a chance to shine. Acting in a whole other language is never easy, but it looks like neither Park nor Gao are particularly fluent, so basically all of their dialogue together is clunky and weird. Thankfully, they sell the hell out of it with their body language and facial expressions, which do more than enough to make up for the language barrier. Maybe that was the point of the movie. I don’t know – if it was, then it certainly wasn’t emphasised much.
There’s some decent story here, too, but the way it’s presented is a bit like the dialogue. It starts and stops in random places, slows down when it doesn’t need to. The story moves at its own pace, which is never really all that fast, before plunging headfirst into drama territory in the final fifteen minutes. A lot happens in that time, but it’s too little too late, and leaves the audience with a severe case of dramatic whiplash. It’s not like the events are even that out-there, but the sudden shift from one state of affairs to the next is so unexpected you’re left feeling – briefly, at least – that the film was saying more than it actually was.
Frankly, there’s not a lot I can even say about this film. Not because it was particularly bad, or good, but because it was just kind of forgettable. Stuff happened, it was all nice and sweet, some drama happened and then it all ended. None of the dialogue and few scenes left much of an impact on me and I doubt they will anyone else. As it stands, it’s not so boring that you’ll regret watching it, but frankly there are tonnes of similar films that are far more interesting. Something My Sassy Girl will satisfy those rom-com urges, all the while leaving you far more satisfied.
Verdict: A Good Rain Knows is fine. It’s a perfectly passable romantic dramedy, and that’s all it needs to be
The Asian Cinema Critic Ratings System
Overall entertainment: 6/10
Soap opera moments: 1
Szechuan Beauties: Apparently a thing
Du Fu Poetry: Plenty
A Good Rain Knows (2009)
Also known as: 호우시절(Ho u shijeol); A Season of Good Rain
Director: Hur Jin-ho
Writers: Hur Jin-ho, Lee Han-eol
Jung Woo-sung – Park Dong-ha
Gao Yuanyuan – May
Kim Sang-ho – President Ji
Ma Shaohua – Director Ma