It’s always a nice treat when you go into a film expecting one thing and it ending up being something completely different. But in a great way. That’s the 2011 Korean film Always (오직 그대만/Only You). The film is a romantic drama that hits every mark and delivers a roller coaster of emotions powered by wonderful performances and sizzling chemistry from stars So Ji Sub and Han Hyo Joo.
Cheol Min (So Ji Sub) is a rough, former boxer with a mysterious past. When he takes over a job as a parking attendant, he meets the cheerful Jung Hwa (Han Hyo Joo) who is blind. Having regularly watched evening dramas with the previous parking attendant, she befriends the cold Cheol Min and soon warms him up. They grow closer and fall in love, but Cheol Min’s insecurities about his past and surprising revelations threaten their happiness.
The film does a skillful job of establishing both characters quickly and allowing their chemistry and relationship to blossom in a natural and effective way even with its quick pace. That gives ample opportunity for the romance, the angst and legitimate emotional drama to land and breathe.
Always is a heartfelt story of unconditional love. It takes a couple of twists and turns like a familiar melodrama. But the character development makes each punch (literally) land and have an effect.
So Ji Sub is just effortless in the role. Always able to project a tough, bad boy aura while also allowing Cheol Min to be vulnerable and warm-hearted. It requires a fair amount of nuance, but the experienced So Ji Sub easily conveys the story of a man weathered by his past and hopeful for his future.
Han Hyo Joo, meanwhile, delivers an excellent performance as Jung Hwa. The character is cheerful and positive, never letting her visual impairment negatively affect her life. Han Hyo Joo must effectively deliver on several fronts, both narratively and emotionally. And she does.
Their chemistry and performances help elevate the story to new heights, all leading toward a simultaneously heartbreaking and satisfying conclusion.
Strong chemistry, excellent performances and a sincerely moving story. Always is romantic drama at its very best and most engaging. A definite winner.