(aka 'Goodbye Solo')

 

directed by Ki Min Soo & Hwang In Hyuk
Korea 2006

 

The Series : 9
As "X" points out in his excellent and detailed review in Twitch Magazine, Goodbye Solo is about loneliness and our fitful attempts to have relationships with friends, family and lovers because and despite our separateness. The story is also about how we deliberately, though often unwittingly (if you'll permit the possibility of both at the same time), create our own loneliness and ensure its longevity, despite our hopes and dreams.

As I watched the series, one (of several) things that impressed me was the diverse ways separateness can be depicted photographically and dramatically. It occurred to me that this is the key creative challenge for the filmmakers. It is not enough that two people are shown on opposite ends of couch, or not speaking to each other after a fight, or that when they do speak, their demeanor cools. While seeking a fresh language to express separation, in distinction from loneliness, the actors should also express subtle degrees of fear, anger, resentment, anxiety or loss. The audience, for its part, should be able to sense that two or more characters while sharing the same space, are unreachable, one to the other. The possibilities are many, but not endless – and, to be effective in a drama, they, must be artistically related.

 

It seemed to me that this was the special gift of Goodbye Solo. I can't speak to its language – a feature that I commented on second-hand in regards Ruler of Your Own World – but I did recognize and resonate with the varied, but singularly uncontrived, ways in which alienation and abortive attempts at reconciliation were laid out and dealt with. It was this very lack of contrivance that separates Goodbye Solo from your usual television drama – Korean or not. And it extends right through to characterization and performance.

Unlike plot-driven drama series – even good ones like Winter Sonata or Dae Jang Geum - Goodbye Solo is character-driven. So many Korean dramas hang their characters onto a dynamic, modulating plot, without much care to character consistency (unlike
Winter Sonata or Dae Jang Geum). If we weren't so caught up in the passionate emotions generated by the heartfelt performances of many Korean actors, we would doubtless cry out "But that character wouldn't respond that way!" (This was one of my complaints of One Fine Day.) Not so, Goodbye Solo, where the drama is all about character development, with just enough plot to keep us dramatically involved and anticipating resolution. In this way, Goodbye Solo has more in common with Yellow Films TV dramas, Someday and Alone in Love.

When we see friends or lovers together in Goodbye Solo, it's not just another ruse to sneak in some brutal piece of scene chewing news causing a character to race out the door to head off some perceived catastrophe, but an opportunity to get to know them better. For these are complex characters, indeed. There are no default good guys or bad guys, but people with varying degrees of disabling histories, whose stores are told in the briefest possible series of flashbacks throughout the 16-hour drama. We meet people of various ages, from their early 20's to 60's, with different degrees of maturity and wisdom – some friends since high school, others just having met. Insecurities and weaknesses abound, but, for a change, not for the sake manipulating the audience, but to help us
grow in toleration and wisdom.

In short, Goodbye Solo is one hell of an adult drama – with adult issues, adult themes, and adult resolutions. There are neither fairy tale endings nor twisted ironies. While there still persists vestiges of the Korean habit (in this case, a very bad habit) of reprising the dialogue and/or image of the previous scene over a reaction shot of one of the affected, generally the camera lingers tenderly or painfully on faces and postures in casual caress or geometric isolation with only the help of the score, the lighting, and the actor. And, for the most part, that acting totally supports the intent of the moment and the arc of the character's life adventure.

I don't recall a Korean drama series where we get to know so many characters – and of such a range of ages - so well. Usually, the focus is on two pairs of would-be lovers. Alone in Love manages a third, but I would not go so far as to say that all had nearly the equality of weight or interest as in Goodbye Solo.

So let's take a moment, please, to single out Bae Jung Ok (42, More Beautiful Than a Flower) as Yeong-Suk, the very picture of the changing faces of the moon and one of the most fascinating characters ever met on Korean television. Then there's Na Moon Hee (65, You Are My Sunshine; Crying Fist) as the immutable Granny Mi-young, whose decision to remain mute for decades is tested repeatedly; Lee Jae Ryong (42, The Immortal Lee Soon-shin) as Ho-chuel, the gangster, whose pride runs deeper than any gangster's code; and the effervescent Kim Min Hee (24, Best Actress Award for "Some Like It Hot" 2008), the young woman who loves him, despite their on again/off again love affair, and who brings Ho-chuel's pride to the breaking point.

But Goodbye Solo centers on none of these well fleshed out characters, but on the triadic relationship between Min-ho (Chun Jung Myung, 26, Fashion 70's) and Su-hee (played by Yoon So Yi, 21, Shadowless Sword), who is the girlfriend of Min-ho's best friend, Ji-an, (Lee Han, 25, Be Strong, Geum Soon). While this triangle seems at first blush to be the very kimchi and ramyeon of Korean melodrama, it is their past stories, how they came together and are tested that sets it apart from the usual fare.

All of which means, that Goodbye Solo is not for everyone – not even the usual K-drama addict. In its television run, Koreans never warmed up to the show as they do gut-wrenching, page-turners, or over-the-top comedies, granting it only a 12% average share. You have been warned: Are up to living with real people for 16 hours?

Excerpt of review from Leonard Norwitz located HERE

Theatrical Release: First aired on KBS Television: March 1 – April 20, 2006

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DVD Review: Taewon Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC

Big thanks to Robert Cagle for recommending the title!

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

Taewon Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC

Runtime 16 hours
Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 5.5. mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

Audio Korean DD2.0
Subtitles Feature: English, Korean. Extras: None
Features Release Information:
Studio:

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• 16 episodes, approx. 60 min. per episode
• Extras: Interviews & newsworthy appearances by the cast & filmmakers

DVD Release Date: February 27. 2007
1 box set with 2 volumes, complete on 6 discs

 

Comments

Edition: 8
KBS puts out their own All Region edition: a beautiful box set with three 2-disc volumes plus an insert. It has English subtitles, alas, not up to the standards of YAE, but better than merely serviceable. It would be nice if YA Entertainment would do their usual magic with translation, but save that remote possibility there is no reason not to buy the Korean KBS All-Region set which, as of this writing, you can pick up cheaply HERE

Image : 7.5/6.5
The score of 7.5 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other standard definition DVDs on a 10-point scale for SD DVDs. The second score represents a value for the image on a 10-point scale that accommodates both standard and high-definition DVDs – where any score above 7 for an SD is outstanding, since the large majority of high-definition DVDs are 8-9.5.

Image quality varies depending on the scene. Many of the close-ups are exquisite, despite what I believe is a non-progressive image. Outdoor on-location shots vary from grey to colorful. Flashbacks are rendered deliberately washed out. I suspect that the DVD is faithful to original photography, including that peculiar Korean tendency to overexposure. Enhancement and artifacts are at a minimum – hardly noticeable unless you're looking for them.


Audio & Music : 8/8
One thing this series reminded me to make mention of regarding many Korean television dramas as compared to American fare: that they make ample use of western popular music but the reverse is not true. At any Korean big city restaurant, coffee shop or mall, it's just as likely that Western music will be playing in the background, just as our pop music is featured on their record shelves, but not the other way 'round. The score to Goodbye Solo is likewise similarly Western influenced, with a faux bossa-nova prominent as one of its themes. Unlike Korean fairy tale romances, Goodbye Solo does not rely on piano meanderings, but is scored variously as the moment calls for. Even so, there is a lack of textual development: most often, when a theme returns, it is clothed much the same as when heard before.

Translation & Subtitles : 6/8
The translation is apparently done in Korea, without benefit of further editing by an English-speaker. Grammatical mistakes and misspellings appear with some regularity, but rarely to the point of creating an opportunity for misunderstanding. Subtitles are white, bordered in black so as to always be clear against any background and smaller than we see typically on YA-Entertainment productions. Nice for larger displays. Smaller ones might have some trouble.

 


Operations & Box Design : 8/10
The menu is in both Korean and English. Uncomplicated. The box set is a joy to look at and a pleasure to touch. The sturdy, recessed outer shell houses three simple gatefold volumes, each with two discs held with strain-relief clasps. KBS also includes a poster in muted color printed on some strange hi-tech cloth. Full points.

Extras : 5
I watched most of the bonus features on disc six despite the absence of subtitles, being used to the fan-targeted spots from previous K-dramas were a welcome contrast to the series' intense seriousness. Of course, I was not able to get the meaning of the interviews and dinner presentations. Probably of greater interest would have been the audio commentaries that accompanied the series. This appeared to be a discussion between two or three people, most likely the director and producer. No subs.

Recommendation: 9
Despite the absence of English subtitles for the bonus features, and the occasional slip in translation on the main feature, this drama can be enthusiastically recommended. Get it while it is still in print.

 



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Taewon Entertainment - Region 0 - NTSC

 





 

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