All of us experience a plethora of emotions on a daily basis, but do we truly understand them? Some of us spend our entire lives wearing our hearts on our sleeves, painting the world in our own colours, pouring out our deepest secrets into the people and places we love – only to be told that we’re not enough. Some of us are entrenched so deep in our own selves that we forget what we were truly trying to say or do, to the point that eventually, we fail to see the merit in it all.
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All of us are broken in some way or the other. The question is – will this supposedly beautiful, grand, fulfilling emotion of love complete us? Can we even comprehend what love is when we don’t understand or trust how we feel? And will we miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime because we were vacillating between playing it safe and taking the plunge?
The two titular characters of Soundtrack #1 are struggling with the fundamental mark-up of humans – emotions – in their own ways. Lee Eun-soo (Han So-hee) is a no-name lyricist itching to capture love in a bottle (or in a song) and get her big break. Han Sun-woo (Park Hyung-sik) is a photographer wracked with apathy – despite his spellbinding photos, he’s disillusioned and numb, unable to see himself as anything other than an impostor. Well, if nothing else, at least they have the other one to vent their frustrations to, for 19 years now, as Eun-soo would add.
That’s exactly what we open on. Eun-soo’s lyrics have just been rejected by the composer of her dreams for being too hollow. Sun-woo wants to pull out of his upcoming exhibition because he fails to see merit in his own work. Both gather at their regular hole-in-the-wall haunt, ironically called Married Couple, where Eun-soo drowns her sorrows at the bottom of a bottle and Sun-woo escapes from the monotony of his life by consoling her.
Now, Soundtrack #1 is an inherently romantic show. It’s not only because of the story itself, but also the mise-en-scene that somehow looks realistic, yet fantastical. It’s in the pure shades of white Eun-soo wears and the black-and-white photos on the walls of Sun-woo’s studio; the cosy joint they both go to, and the evident love between the owners who run it.
It’s most evident, however, in Eun-soo and Sun-woo’s interactions. As she rants about love being more stupid than unrequited, the romance is in Sun-woo’s lingering gaze. As she forces him to approve how she looks, it’s in the stillness of Sun-woo’s movements as her hands cup his face. It’s unspoken, yet it simmers when Sun-woo sighs: “Love, you can spit out, at least. But when it’s one-sided, you have to swallow it and keep it inside.”
Turns out, there’s a time limit to all of this – Eun-soo has two weeks to revise the song and imbue it with emotion, and also to say goodbye to Sun-woo, set to go abroad. Impressed by his supposed understanding of unrequited love, she asks him to live with her for two weeks and be her assistant so she can pick his brains for insights. Sun-woo – the caring, devoted Sun-woo who pulls her out of traffic, steals glances at her when she’s not looking, walks her home and leaves her with instructions to wash up before she hits the bed – says no. You know exactly why.
As he walks back to his workroom that night, he mulls over what Eun-soo had told him – to follow his heart. His memories take him back to four years ago, when Sun-woo almost worked up the courage to confess to Eun-soo. He bails at the last moment, however, when Eun-soo dismisses the suggestion of dating him in a conversation, saying that if they ever broke up, she wouldn’t be able to go on. If they were to remain friends forever, they could never date.
Back in the present, however, he makes a different choice. By the next morning, Sun-woo has packed up and moved in with Eun-soo. As a long day of cleaning up the house ends with a delicious dinner, Eun-soo tries to wrangle the name of Sun-woo’s first love out of him, to no success. Apparently, if it were up to Sun-woo, Eun-soo would never know the extent of his feelings for her – he’s too scared of losing her.
As the night comes to a close, a drunk Eun-soo cuddles up to Sun-woo. He, in turn, spends the entire night struggling between pulling her close and pushing her away. At last, he settles for staring at her till the sun comes up, or until Eun-soo opens her eyes and finds herself staring straight into his.
- As the first song of this soundtrack comes to a close, setting up an intimate tale of love, we are taken back to the night four years ago when Sun-woo had chickened out of confessing. He cools off outside Married Couple, looking wistfully at the stuffed toy he’d brought for Eun-soo. With Eun-soo’s words ringing in his mind, he consoles his heart and closes the lid on the box. In the present, the toy rests on his work desk.
- The wistful and profound moment when Sun-woo describes the struggle of unrequited love to Eun-soo, and she – not knowing who it truly is – is amazed at how beautifully he captured it.
‘Soundtrack #1’ is available on Disney+