Forever the Moment review: True story of the 2004 Korea’s women’s handball team.
Forever the Moment review, Luke Ryan Baldock at the London Korean Film Festival.
Films are dominated by men, and so are sports, so The London Korean Film Festival has done well to choose Yim Soo Rye’s Forever the Moment as one of their focus films from women about women. Not only does it dramatise the real life Korean women’s Olympic handball team’s efforts in Athens in 2004, but it also takes the time to speak out socially on how women are perceived and treated. What’s also refreshing is a sports movie that avoids many of the cliches we’ve come to recognise from so many testosterone fuelled features.
As the Korean women’s handball team gets ready for the 2004 Olympics, it becomes apparent that there is an odd and almost unworkable mix between young upstarts and older players, a few of whom played as far back as 1992. Mi Sook (Moon So Ri) was one of 1992’s gold medalists, but with a husband tricked by a colleague and hunted by debt collectors, as well as a young son to care for, Mi Sook has nothing left but handball. On her team are Jeong Ran (Kim Ji Young), a player who never made it to the international team, and Su Hee (Jo Eun Ji) the only one of the three to get on the national team thanks to being the only goalkeeper. After their corporate team wins the championship, the team is soon disbanded, with Mi Sook having to work in a supermarket and Jeong Ran working in her husband’s restaurant. Once former 1992 gold medalist Hae Kyung (Kim Jung Eun) is appointed the interim coach for the national squad, she sets about taking on her old teammates. But once a permanent coach is found, Hae Kyung’s old flame Ahn Seung Pil (Uhm Tae Woong), she too joins the team as a player, only to find that Seung Pil wants the old guard off the squad.
Forever the Moment is a delightful mix of sport, comedy, and drama. The sport sequences are tense, as well as each segment building upon the characters and their relationships with each other. The group all have skeletons in their closets in regards to their friendships, but Forever the Moment always feels natural in how these playout. What is very impressive is Yim’s confidence in her ability. There is barely any music throughout the first two thirds of the film, making all the dramatics earned rather than manipulated. When the music does come it almost feels like a shame, but it can’t be denied that it tugs at the tear ducts.
The real meat to the story comes from the personal journeys of the characters. Mi Sook is a tragic character, having great talent she can’t capitalise on, while Hae Kyung has found financial stability coaching in Japan. It is the inclusion of male coach Seung Pil where we see real conflict. His tough coach attitude does more harm than good, and Hae Kyung is made to feel redundant being both a woman and a divorcee, which she rightly points out wouldn’t be a problem for a man. Each of the actors brings joy and dimensions to their role, with Kim Ji Young stealing her scenes as the boisterous player enjoying her place time in the sun. Outside of gender, age is also a factor, with Seung Pil’s attempts to bench the older girls despite the fact they rank highest in the country.
Whether watched as a sports drama or a comment on gender roles and society, Forever the Moment works on both levels. Mixing relatable sports stars who aren’t in it for the fame and fortune, while detailing their struggles and lives away from the game, it is a more convincing story than many rags to riches movies of a similar ilk. It’s the fact that this isn’t the biggest sport in the world that makes it all the more enjoyable to invest in. A story of real women achieving more than just fame and fortune, that being respect, worth, and friendship. A treat that still plays well today.
Forever the Moment review by Luke Ryan Baldock. The film screened as part of the London Korean Film Festival 2016.
Forever the Moment will also screen on Friday 25th November at Queen’s Film Theatre, Belfast.