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Film / Il Mare

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Il Mare is a 2000 film from South Korea directed by Lee Hyun-seung.

A young woman named Eun-joo moves out of a fancy, modernist steel-and-glass house by the beach called "Il Mare" ("the sea" in Latin). As she leaves, she leaves a letter in the mailbox asking whoever moves in next to forward her mail. She also apologizes for the doggy footprints in the house, explaining that they were made by the previous occupant.

Cue Sung-hyun (Lee Jung-jae), a young aspiring architect, moving into the house. Oddly the house has no "Il Mare" signpost; in fact, Sung-hyun makes the signpost himself. He's a little bit puzzled by Eun-joo's card, since not only are there no doggy footprints in the house, he is the first person to live there. He sends a letter to Eun-joo wondering why she claims to have lived in the house, but he does not immediately cue in to the fact that her card is dated December 1999 while he is living in December 1997.

Then a stray dog that Sung-hyun has taken a shine to leaves paint footprints in the house. Eventually, Sung-hyun and Eun-joo, who continue to exchange letters through the mailbox, figure out that the mailbox is sending their letters through what appears to be a two-year wormhole in time. His letters to her travel two years forward to 1999-2000, while her letters to him travel two years backward to 1997-98. The two young people then begin a most unusual romance by mail, separated by two years in time. Will they find happiness?

This film was remade in English in 2006 as The Lake House.


  • Amusement Park: Since Eun-joo can't go back to 1998 to go on a date with Sung-hyun, she gives him directions for an outing to go on by himself. She tells him to go to an amusement park and ride the roller coaster.
  • Book Ends: The last scene of the film repeats the opening, with the camera gliding over the water to the house, then Eun-joo writing her "please forward my mail" card and taking her stuff out of the house. Except this time, Sung-hyun shows up, having received her note in the past and consequently managed to avoid being run over in the street and killed.
  • Compartment Shot: Seen when Sung-hyun reaches into the mailbox to get the book about his father that he's been waiting for Eun-joo to send from the future. Unfortunately it arrived too late for him to show his father before his father died.
  • Cool House: It's pretty darn cool, an experimental-style house with big glass picture windows that sits on the beach, or rather several feet above the beach, supported by tiles. It's cool enough that when Eun-joo finds an architecture book about Sung-hyun's father, a very famous architect, there's a big glossy photo of Il Mare.
  • Crappy Holidays: As the film begins Eun-joo is alone for Christmas 1999 and she is working at the manhwa book shop at the stroke of midnight, New Year's 2000. Her boyfriend has left for the United States to study, and she eventually figures out that he's dumped her.
  • Dramatic Drop: Eun-joo dramatically drops her coffee cup when she looks out the window, and sees Sung-hyun run down and killed by a car in the street. This one is more important to the plot than most, as that death scene is rewound, complete with the coffee cup reassembling itself and flying back up into Eun-joo's hand, implying that her desperate letter to Sung-hyun changed the course of events and saved him.
  • Fantastic Romance: A man and woman separated by two years in time, fall in love via a magic mailbox.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: Sung-hyun doesn't notice the date on Eun-joo's letter, but he does pick up on her calling the house by name, asking in his reply "How did you know the house was called Il Mare?"
  • Let the Past Burn: Sung-hyun's friend and a young woman who is going abroad and who is strongly implied to be his ex-girlfriend stop by. They hand over a box of models and the friend makes a disapproving comment about Sung-hyun dropping out of architecture school. Cut to the box of models, merrily burning on the beach.
  • Longing Look: Sung-hyun gets one heck of a longing look when he sees Eun-joo on a train platform in 1998. Of course, 1998 Eun-joo does not know him.
  • Magical Realism: A magical mailbox sends letters traveling back and forward in time, precisely two years either way. There are no other magical/fantasy tropes besides that basic premise.
  • Meanwhile In The Past: The film cuts back and forth between Sung-hyun in 1997-98 and Eun-joo in 1999-2000.
  • Pen Pals: Sung-hyun and Eun-joo conduct a very strange romance via time-traveling pen pal letters.
  • P.O.V. Cam: A ground-view camera approaches Sung-hyun rapidly, retreats when he looks back, then advances rapidly again when he turns back around. It's a shot from the POV of the stray dog that Sung-hyun adopts and whom Eun-joo eventually names "Cola".
  • Race for Your Love: After finding out what happened to Sung-hyun, namely that he was run over and killed on his way to meet her, Eun-joo sends a frantic note telling him not to meet her. It seems to work (although the ending is confusing), as he lives to 1999 and meets her as she's moving out of Il Mare.
  • Rom Com Job: Sung-hyun is an architect. Eun-joo works as a voice actress doing radio promos and cartoons, although she has a more prosaic second job as a cashier at a comic book shop.
  • San Dimas Time: Eun-joo and Sung-hyun are separated by exactly two years. When she is delayed in putting the book about his father into the mailbox, it doesn't get to 1998 in time. She writes him that the second anniversary of her losing her favorite tape recorder in 1998 is rapidly approaching. He just barely misses catching her at the train station in 1998 and giving her the tape recorder that she just dropped, so he has to settle for putting it in the mailbox so she gets it two years later. The ending has Eun-joo frantically sending an emergency message from the year 2000, hoping that it will get to Sung-hyun before he's struck and killed by a car in the past.
  • The Slow Path: Sung-hyun reserves a bottle for Eun-joo at a fancy wine bar in 1998, and she goes there and drinks it two years later. When setting up a rendezvous for a date in "a week", Eun-joo notes that the date, March 11, 2000, is only a week away for her but he has to wait two years and a week.
  • Split Screen: A split-screen shows Eun-joo and Sung-hyun, separated by two years, both touching the mailbox in wonder now that they've both figured out it's a time portal.
  • Time-Travel Romance: Two people fall in love via letters, despite being separated in time by two years.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: The ending. Eun-joo, in 2000, realizes that Sung-hyun was run over in the street and killed as he was going back to meet her in the past, in a coffee shop. She sends a frantic note through the magic mailbox, telling him not to go to that rendezvous. Cut to the Happy Ending, in which we see Sung-hyun meeting her in the same scene as the beginning of the film; right before she puts her "please forward my mail" card in the box he shows up with the frantic note, saying that he needs to tell her a long story. So it would seem that Sung-hyun lived after all, and survived to December 1999 so he could meet Eun-joo as she was leaving Il Mare...except that means that in the altered timeline Eun-joo is meeting him in the flesh before the story ever gets started. So how does he have a note in his hand telling him to not go the coffee shop rendezvous?
  • Voiceover Letter: Several, as the two engage in a pen pal romance, starting with the first letter Eun-joo sends when she makes the comments about the house name and the dog footprints that puzzle Sung-hyun so much.
  • Visual Title Drop: Sung-hyun, who evidently is fond of pretentious Latin, paints a sign christening the house "Il Mare". This confuses him when he gets Eun-joo's letter referring to the house as "Il Mare", since he just put up the sign.
  • Wedding Ring Removal: Apparently it's an engagement ring. But Eun-joo writes a letter to her boyfriend in America, only for it to come back with a stamp saying it was incorrectly address. She then calls him, and a woman answers. Afterwards a depressed Eun-joo tosses her ring into her fish tank.