It is spring, by a riverbank, underneath a railroad bridge. At a 20th year reunion of factory workers, the long-lost Yongho appears, disturbing their party. His friends stand by confounded as he, despite the approaching train, climbs onto the railroad bridge, and cries out: “I am going back !” Time runs forward to the past, as if we’re riding a train of time travel.
Days earlier, Yongho loses his home and family, and spends his last few bills on a gun. A strange man appears at Yongho’s makeshift home and takes him to the deathbed of his first love, where peppermint candy provides one last magic moment. The train continues to transport us back in time to reveal the secret of the peppermint candy, and of Yongho’s buried past entwined with an intractable Korean history: torturer, soldier, factory worker. A young man at the crossroads of love. A man with blood on his hands. And, finally, we arrive 20 years earlier to the most innocent moment in a man’s life. –La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs
The main character Yong-ho (Sol Kyung-gu) in the first scene of the movie is seen dressed in a suit encountering what looks like a reunion party which is taking place on the banks of a river over which a railway bridge runs. He is in a state of extreme psychological trauma. He is then recognised by the reunion party group who try to calm him down and involve him to participate in singing some karaoke songs in order to get him to relax. Yong-ho behaves in a very disturbed way and this behaviour completely shocks the reunion group. He then makes his way onto the elevated railway bridge. One of the guys from the reunion party runs over to the railway bridge and pleads with him to come down. Yong-ho waits for the oncoming train and the moment before he is killed he screams the words ‘I want to go back again’.
The film then traces Yong Ho’s life in reverse starting with the unfolding of the most recent events in his life prior to him committing suicide and then working back in time from there to the earlier stages of his young adult life.
In the most immediate past Yong-ho is seen living in a makeshift house on the edge of a highway and we learn how he arrived at this point by, among other things, losing money on the stock market, being ripped off by his business partner and being divorced from his wife. Here he is visited by an unknown man who asks him to visit this unknown man’s terminally ill wife as this was her last request. This woman, we find out in time, was Yong-ho’s true love years before, and who used to send him peppermints when Yong-ho was a soldier in the army.
The movie takes us in rewind through Yong Ho’s life from where he was a successful businessman, but philandering husband to a cheating wife, to where he was previously a brutal police officer and inconsiderate husband to a pregnant wife, to us seeing how, although he originally never really had it in him to be a brutal cop, but needed to be one and so, became one, to him spurning his true love and making sexual advances to another woman (which was to be his future wife), to him being a frightened and useless soldier, who gets shot and who unintentionally kills a female student during a military crackdown, to way back where he was a student who has aspirations for being a photographer and who has just met his true love (the future terminally ill woman), alongside that same river where he later meets up with the reunion party and where he decides to commit suicide.
The film tracks the life path of how Yong-ho goes from youthful innocence, beauty and love to being a nasty, cruel and hateful man, and most especially self-hate, and this all depicted in reverse. –IMDb
Lee was born in Daegu, the hub of Korea’s main conservative party. He graduated in 1981 with a degree in Korean Literature from Kyungpook National University in Daegu, where he spent much of his time in the theater, writing and directing plays. After a spell teaching Korean Language in high school, he established himself as a renowned novelist with his first novel Chonri in 1983. Later in his career, to the surprise of many, he turned to movie making.
Lee did not study filmmaking before starting out. He penned two screenplays, Park Kwang-su’s To the Starry Island in 1993 and A Single Spark in 1995. After being encouraged by his contemporaries to finally step behind the directors chair, Lee made Green Fish, a “critique of Korean society told through the eyes of a young man who becomes enmeshed in the criminal underworld”, in 1997.
In 2000, Lee made Peppermint Candy, a story following a single man in reverse chonology through 20 years… read more
On a sunny day by a whispering river a group of friends, all middle-aged, are having a reunion, celebrating twenty years since they last had an outing together, back in college. Toward them staggers… read review