Dir. Kim Dai-seung. S Kor. 2006. 112mins.

A perfect choice to promote South Korea's natural beauty, Pusan's official opener is an easily watchablebut unabashed sentimental melodrama, swimming in a sea of decorous tears andclassical music warhorses. Traces Of Love revolves around a real-life 1995 disaster in Seoul, when a departmentstore collapsed in the centre of the city, killing more than 500 and injuringanother 900. Kim Dai-seung's film centreson a young public, prosecutor who loses his bride-to-be in the disaster, andsubsequently sets out on a journey mapped by his late beloved before her death,taking off across the country and into the arms of someone who also sufferedfrom the same catastrophe.

Handsome, presentable starssuch as Yoo Ji-tae (thevillain in Oldboy),Kim Ji-Su (ThisCharming Girl) and Uhm Ji-won(Tales Of Cinema)will certainly help Traces Of Love withthe afternoon crowds at home. Beyond it has little that is either exceptionalor original to offer. The best bet would be TV sales.

Min-joo(Kim), a TV reporter in love with Korean landscape and preparing a series ofreports on the dangers it suffers from nature and man, is about to marrypromising junior public prosecutor Hyun-woo (Yoo).Everything is set for the wedding when, one afternoon, while waiting for Hyun-wooto finish for the day, Min-joo sits in theunderground cafe of the doomed store.

It should have been the endof the story - but Kim Dai-seung takes it as the beginning.Devastated as he is by his loss, Hyun-woo is further hurt when he is suspended byhis office, as a public funds scandal he was investigating is shunted into adead end by high-placed politicians and he is blamed. His spirits are at leastpartially lifted when he is miraculously handed a diary prepared by Min-joo, and in it, the detailed scenic route she had plannedfor both of them to take on their honeymoon.

With nothing else to dountil his fate is decided by the DA, Hyun-woo gets into his car and pursues thejourney his late beloved had devised, accompanied by constant flashbacks fromthe past in which Min-joo is shown discovering allthese charming spots, whether by herself, visiting them for her TV show or withHyun-woo himself.

On the way he meets Se-jin (Uhm), a strange solitarygirl, who seems to recover from some unknown trauma and follows exactly thesame paths as him. Sooner or later they are destined to meet and discover theyhave more in common than just an interest in the forests, temples and seasideviews of the Korean coast.

Following the rules ofmelodrama to the letter, every little obstacle blocking their way is elegantlyremoved for the final shot, when the past gently walks away and the twosurvivors find consolation in each other.

Pulling out all the stops, screenwriterJang Min-suk and director Kim Dai-seungsqueeze dry the tear ducts from their performers, as one lachrymose standfollows another, with sad, brave smiles separating one reminiscence scene fromthe next.

While effective CG workoffers a pretty spectacular image of the store collapsing, and the scenessurrounding the tragedy itself will inevitably bring to mind post-9/11 real-lifeincidents, most of the film is essentially a road movie. Scenery is lovinglygazed at not once, but twice, as Min-joo's flashbacksallowing the audience to gave at the vista in adifferent season. Such flashbacks also keep the departed character very much inthe centre of proceedings for the entire duration.

Splendidly shot autumnalwoods in burnished auburn and gold colours, winterlandscapes covered with snow, picturesque fishing villages and imposingtemples, shimmering rivers and glorious red sunsets; they're all there, all bathedin excerpts from Mozart, Bach, Haendel, Tchaikovskyand Wolf-Ferrari, to mention a few. As such the music and images make forpartial but substantial compensation to the vast expanses of sweet sadness theyaccompany.

Kim Ji-su,who has the most upbeat part, despite having to die quite early in the script,comes out best. The other two leads are required to do nothing more than lookattractively dejected as they live through their memories, which they dutifullydo.

Production companies/backers
Dasepo Club
Lotte Entertainment
Nexus Investment Company
Mirovision, Inc
mvpc Co
I Venture investment Co
Centurion Technology Venture Corporation
Orion Cinema Network

International sales
Ahns World/Mirovision

Executive producers
Ahn Dong-kyu
Kim Kwang-sub

Ahn Dong-kyu

Jang Min-suk

Lee Mo-gae

Kim Sang-bum
Kim Jae-bum

Production design
Ha Sang-ho

Cho Young-wook

Main cast
Yoo Ji-tae
Kim Ji-su
Uhm Ji-won