South Korean director Hur Jin Ho’s fourth film, Happiness, is an intensely moving drama and one which packs a big emotional punch. Young Su (Hwang Jung Min), an alcoholic, nightclub owner from Seoul, is stricken with liver cirrhosis and as a result of his expensive addiction the business runs into financial difficulties. Young Su’s materialistic girlfriend then leaves him and, desperate to get sober, he checks into a rural sanatorium for treatment. While there he falls in love with fellow patient Eun Hee (Lim Soo Jung), who is terminally ill with cystic fibrosis, and the pair eventually move in together. With careful nurturing from Eun Hee Young Su’s condition improves dramatically, but a surprise visit from his former girlfriend soon causes major problems for the couple. Hwang essays his extremely demanding role as the alcoholic protagonist with aplomb and Lim’s equally impressive performance ensures that Eun Hee’s despair is felt strongly by the audience, as her idealistic romance slowly unravels. Happiness is Hur’s most hard-hitting film to date, but despite its serious premise there are some surprisingly humorous moments scripted around several eccentric characters at the sanatorium. The overriding message of this heart wrenching story, however, is that we should value every second of our existence and not take loved ones for granted. The picturesque cinematography and melancholic background score also contribute enormously to the aesthetic beauty of Happiness and render it an unmissable film for all lovers of genuinely thought-provoking cinema.
Overall Rating: 5/5