This post includes a brief plot summary and an explanation about the ending of the film Be With You / Jigeum Mannareo Gabmida (2018). Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Lee Jang-hoon, the 2018 South Korean fantasy drama is based on the 2003 novel with the same name written by Takuji Ichikawa. The film stars So Ji-sub as Woo-jin and Son Ye-jin as Soo-ah. Today’s post is solely based on the film, not the novel.
Be With You (2018) – Plot Summary
Woo-jin is a recent widow and before his wife (Soo-ah) passed away, she made an odd promise to him. Soo-ah told her husband that she would return an year later during the raining season. To Woo-jin’s surprise, he reunites with his wife exactly an year after her death. However, the woman has no recollection of who Woo-jin (her husband) and Ji-ho (her son) are.
In order to help Soo-ah remember her past, Woo-jin tells his wife how they met. Apparently, the two met in high school. Although, Woo-jin always had a crush on Soo-ah, she always seemed very reluctant to accept his advances. The two part ways after high school graduation. Soo-ah went to Seoul for college, while Woo-jin stayed in his home town to pursue his career as a competitive swimmer. One day, Woo-jin musters the courage to call Soo-ah under the excuse of retrieving his pen back. After the call, Soo-ah schedules a rendez-vous to meet with Woo-jin.
Despite of their awkward encounter, Soo-ah and Woo-jin start seeing each other more frequently. While they were dating, Woo-jin finds out that he won’t be able to compete any more as a swimmer. He has a health condition that prevents him from doing strenuous activities. Out of fear, Woo-jin breaks up with Soo-ah because he didn’t want to be a “burden” for her. As a result, the man tells a lie to push Soo-ah away: Woo-jin told Soo-ah that he didn’t love her any more. That said, Woo-jin never told Soo-ah the real reason behind their breakup. Due to Woo-jin’s harsh words, a heartbroken Soo-ah stops seeing him. Then, out of nowhere, Soo-ah reaches out to Woo-jin to rekindle their romance.
After reading her own diary, Soo-ah begins to teach Ji-ho some basic house chores. Meanwhile, Soo-ah reaches out to Hong-goo (Woo-jin’s best friend) to ask him a favour. Then, she goes back home to celebrate Ji-ho’s birthday.
During the school play, Ji-ho freezes for a moment due to the absence of his parents in the audience. At the very last minute, Soo-ah arrives and Ji-ho gains his confidence back. Woo-jin didn’t make it on time, because he passed out while saving his boss from drowning in the pool. After recovering from a blackout, Soo-ah’s husband runs towards the direction of the tunnel. The sky is clear and the sun is out. In other words, the raining season is over. It’s time for Soo-ah to return to wherever she came from. After an emotional goodbye, Soo-ah disappears.
Father and son resume to their normal lives. While reaching for his medication, Woo-jin finds a note and a key (presumably from Soo-ah). He goes to the annex and finds Soo-ah’s diary. Apparently, Soo-ah also had feelings for Woo-jin during high school but the timing was always off. Woo-jin was never able to explain why Soo-ah came back all of the sudden, but the diary reveals the real reason why she reached out to him. Turns out, Soo-ah had an accident and lost her memory. While she was comatose at the hospital, Soo-ah time travelled into the future and met up with Woo-jin and Ji-ho at the tunnel. When they parted ways, Soo-ah returned to present time. From then on, she had to make a difficult decision: live a longer life without Woo-jin and Ji-ho or live a happy but shorter life with them. Soo-ah chose the latter.
The films ends with an older Ji-ho heading out for his first date. Hong-goo kept his promise to Soo-ah: every year she sent her son a birthday cake (through Hong-go) with a personal note. From what it seems, Woo-jin never remarried.
Be With You (2018) – Ending Explained
By the end of the film, it’s clear that Soo-ah knew all along what was going to happen to her if she ended up with Woo-jin. However, was Soo-ah selfish for choosing to be with Woo-jin? Before, we go through that question, let’s first discuss that unexpected ending.
When Woo-jin came to Seoul looking for Soo-ah, she actually saw him and ran after him. While Soo-ah was looking for Woo-jin, a car inadvertently hit her. She was 25 years old when that happened.
After the accident, Soo-ah remained comatose for 6 weeks. During the coma, she time travelled into the future (a 8 year leap). Therefore, when Soo-ah met her son and her husband at the tunnel she was technically 33 years old.
The accident wiped out Soo-ah’s memories, that’s why she couldn’t remember who Woo-jin was. Having said that, when Soo-ah was rediscovering her past she was actually doing it at 25 years old (during her coma) in her 33 year-old self. During those 6 weeks, Soo-ah was able to have a glimpse of what her life could be as Ji-ho’s mother and Woo-jin’s wife. The end of the raining season coincides with the end of Soo-ah’s coma, that’s why she parts ways with her future son and husband.
After waking from the coma, Soo-ah realizes that the whole experience wasn’t just a dream. Therefore, she rushes to reconcile with Woo-jin. Up until this revelation, Woo-jin never actually explained why Soo-ah came back to visit him (all of a sudden) after their breakup. Now, it’s clear that Soo-ah made the decision to be with Woo-jin and have Ji-ho, even if that meant dying at a young age.
This is how the film explains the ending to its audience. However, there is one missing piece in this explanation. Let me remind you that Be With You is a fantasy drama, in other words, everything is possible. Now, let’s go over that ending again and make some sense out of it.
There are essentially two timelines going on in the film. When Soo-ah meets Woo-jin and Ji-ho at the tunnel, she is actually comatose at the hospital. Having said that, there is a present Soo-ah (25 years old) and a future Soo-ah (33 years). If Soo-ah ends up with Woo-jin, she will die (eventually) regardless of what happens. The only thing that might irk the viewer is the logic behind her “comeback”. Why did Soo-ah promise her husband that she would be back a year later?
TIME TRAVEL – THEORY EXPLAINED
Soo-ah dies at 32 because she chose to be with Woo-jin, that’s a given. At 25 years old, she travelled into the future and leaped 8 years. Therefore, in that universe, Soo-ah is actually 33 years old when she meets her future son and husband at the tunnel. The whole narrative of that parallel story revolves around the idea that Soo-ah died and came back a year later.
How was Soo-ah able to make such a strange promise to her husband and son? First, 25 year-old Soo-ah time travels into the future. Then she returns to the present and chooses to be with Woo-jin. Everything goes as predicted. Although, Soo-ah dies at 32 years old, she knows that, in that other universe, her husband and son will be waiting for her at the tunnel. In other words, Woo-jin and Ji-ho are not meeting the Soo-ah that died. They are actually meeting up with 25 year-old Soo-ah who just leaped 8 years forward in time.
Now, that we’ve closed the missing hole in this story, let’s talk about Soo-ah and her decision to stay with Woo-jin.
WAS SOO-AH SELFISH FOR MARRYING WOO-JIN?
Here’s the thing, Soo-ah knew that Woo-jin had a serious chronic illness, yet she decided to be with him. Although, it seems like Soo-ah sacrificed herself to have a future with Woo-jin and Ji-ho, she also doomed them.
Soo-ah died young, but she had a happy life. That was the trade off: a shorter life span in exchange for happiness. Things worked out great for Soo-ah, but Woo-jin and Ji-ho didn’t benefit much from that “deal”. When Soo-ah passed away, she left a son and a husband behind.
Without the support of his wife, Woo-jin became the sole caretaker of Ji-ho. The man had a chronic illness that hindered him from performing strenuous physical activities. A simple task like running would be difficult for someone like Woo-jin. That said, what will happen if Soo-ah’s husband passes away too? Who’s going to take care of the son? Hong-goo? That’s a possibility. However, it would not be fair for Woo-jin’s best friend and Ji-ho. They did not ask for that life.
As one can see, Soo-ah’s death did not only impact her, it affected the others around her. Therefore, the decision to stay with Woo-jin was sort of selfish, as Soo-ah did not consider what would happen to them.
Be with You is a film that grows on you. To be honest, the first half of the film doesn’t do it any justice. It’s a bit boring and cheesy. However, things improve in the second half of the film. Be with You gets better as the story unravels. The climax of the film is definitely the plot twist: Soo-ah knew what her fate was going to be if she chose to have a life with Woo-jin.
One of the most touching scenes in the film was definitely Ji-ho’s lines for the school play. Ji-ho listing his house chores shows how much he has grown (emotionally) during his mother’s visit. He’s no longer a boy who has just lost his mother. Soo-ah’s son is slowly becoming aware that he needs to know how to take of himself because one never knows what the future holds.
The ending of Be with You is definitely bittersweet. One could say that the story had a happy ending because Ji-ho got to see his mother one last time. Nonetheless, it’s still a bit sad to see Soo-ah say goodbye to her family. Just like Ji-ho, we also (as viewers) wanted to see a last minute miracle to make Soo-ah prolong her stay. However, that did not happen.
There might be some plot holes in the story. It can be tricky to introduce the concept of time travel in a film without explaining it thoroughly. However, Be with You is not a sci-fi film but a fantasy drama. Having said that, it’s okay to cut it some slack in the time travel department. Despite of some minor flaws, the film has a lot of heart. That alone already makes Be with You a noteworthy watch. By the way, that ending requires some tissues because is a real tear-jerker.