Publisher: ADV Films
Running Time: 80 min
Release Date: 7/5/2005
My Beautiful Girl Mari is a stunning animation from Korea that looks more like a Miyazaki film than Japanese anime or Disney animation. When the movie opens, Nam-woo is in an emotional slump and feels his life is missing something. Out of the blue, his childhood friend, Jun-Ho rings him up and the two spend the evening reminiscing. Jun-Ho is about to leave again, but before he goes, he wanted to return a childhood keepsake, a marble, to Nam-woo. The marble is significant because as children, it was the key to entering a fantastical world and spending time with Nam-woo’s first love, Mari.
A few years ago, Nam-woo and Jun-Ho were best of friends. The story takes place in a small fishing town during the weeks before Jun-Ho will leave to study in Seoul. With summer break creeping up on him, Jun-Ho is having doubts about leaving. There is a girl, Soog-Y, that he likes, and he fears leaving his friends and his current life behind to start fresh.
Meanwhile, Nam-woo is struggling with his own issues. His father died when he was younger and now his mom is seeing a guy, one who wants to spend time with him and take on a more fatherly role. To make matters worse, his grandmother is growing sicker and no one is sure how much time she has left. So Nam-woo spends the majority of his days as an introvert – dreaming in the field by the lighthouse, playing with a stray cat he picked up and hanging with Jun-Ho – to escape.
One day, Nam-woo returns home to find his cat missing so he goes to the nearby lighthouse looking for it. At the top, his marble causes a great spark of light and suddenly, Nam-woo finds himself in a fantasy world with fluffy white clouds, an amazing assortment of plant life, a large pink dog/elephant (I’m not exactly sure what this is – like an elephant but furry and I don’t think it had a trunk) and a strange pink girl named Mari who has the ability to fly.
Much of the story is about how through this fantastical interaction, Nam-woo is able to come to terms with his fear of abandonment and accept that the world cannot stay as it is forever. Eventually, Jun-Ho will leave, his mom might remarry, his grandmother will die, and his beloved lighthouse will be destroyed.
Mari remains very abstract throughout the film. She’s just a concept in Nam-woo’s mind – something for him to hold on to and turn to for guidance, even if it is only temporary. Her world is his escape, yet it is this magical journey that leads him to the inner peace he seeks.
Overall, this is a wonderful animation, worth watching if only for the eye candy. As much of the story is character reflection rather than fight scenes or gags, it probably won’t appeal to everyone, but for those that enjoy high quality animation, it is a must see.
The dvd allows you the choice of Korean with subtitles or English. I switched back and forth but ended up watching the majority in English. Much of the music is instrumental, complementing the feel of the movie. At times, it felt as if the animation was choreographed to the music like in Fantasia, particularly in the water scenes.
Stylistically, this animation is incredible. It is completely 3D generated, yet designed to look like a traditionally animated film so the characters have a very plain appearance while the backgrounds are lush and meticulously detailed. But because it’s 3D, the animators had much greater flexibility to play with camera angles. The result is that the characters move realistically in environments that have a great sense of depth. One excellent example of this is Nam-woo’s cat, which moves like you’d expect a real cat to paw, play, and fidget.
The front cover is a scene out of Mari’s fantasy land with her floating horizontally while looking Nam-woo in the eyes. He’s a bit taken back, leaning away from her and unsure what to do. The back contains a summary in white over tall plant life. Inside, the back of the front cover shows through the clear plastic case, providing a few screenshots and another brief summary of the contents.
The menu is a beautiful illustration of Jun-Ho sleeping on the pink dog/elephant while Nam-woo floats upwards to hook up with Mari. The menu options are in white and displayed clearly.
No extras other than the standard previews and credits.
Category: DVD Reviews