Young-Mi was brought up in a loving environment. Her parents taught her to meet the world with a smile on her face, and not be deterred by bumps in the road on her way through life. They also taught her that somewhere out in the world she would meet her one true love. But alas this felicity was not meant to last. Young-Mi's parents die, and leaver her alone at a young age, and suddenly she's forced to grow up very quickly.
However Young-Mi is well prepared. She ventures into the world with an appetite for life, and many dreams and hopes for the future. She goes to school and studies hard, and one day a package arrives for her. A beautiful pair of shoes. There's no sender on the package, and when she attempts to track the origin of this gift the trail ends at a P.O. box. Later when she enrolls in collage and attempts to pay her tuition she finds that it's just been paid. Someone out there is watching out for her. But who? And why?
After a while she gives up, trying to track down this mysterious benefactor, and instead she figures that the best way to thank him would be to work hard and better herself.
When she's completed her education, Young-Mi lands a job at a radio station, as a staff writer on a popular show. As luck would have it, there's an apartment available close to the station. It belongs to a co-worker currently on sick leave. Young-Mi moves in
to this new place, and she also gets a roommate, one of her colleagues. When her laptop computer breaks down she turns on the desktop belonging to the owner of the apartment. Then she notices that an e-mail has just arrived, and she reads it. The mail was sent by the woman who used to live here, addressed to herself. In the mail she explains that a serious virus is slowly destroying her mind, and she fears she'll soon lose all memory of who she is and what she's done. She reveals that she's spent most of her adult life longing for a guy, who doesn't even know she exists.
Through the e-mails Young-Mi begins to follow the story of this girl and this boy. Meanwhile she also begins to notice a guy who works in the station's library. And still, every now and then, a package arrives from her secret benefactor...
There are few things more beautiful that the sight of Ha Ji-Won looking straight at the camera with tears in hers eyes. The filmmakers behind "Daddy Long Legs" obviously feel the same way, because they milk this and all other romantic images they can conjure up for everything they're worth. And then some. When a film is called a "tearjerker" it usually doesn't mean that the film will pin you down, take a pair of pliers, and forcefully jerk the tears from your eye sockets. But this film will. It goes straight for the emotional jugular from the very beginning, and every fiber of its being seems to be focused on making us cry. And you know what? It works. It did for me anyway.
But "Daddy Long Legs" is not without problems. The film is missing that crucial sense of urgency. What would happen if Young-Mi didn't investigate the story behind the e-mails? Or suppose she didn't pursue her co-worker romantically, what would happen then? Actually, not much. Young-Mi is living a good life. She's got a friend, a job and a place to stay, and she would be just fine. Obviously that's no good. A film needs to have ambition. It needs to have drive.
It's a little odd that the film doesn't use the death of the parents to set up some kind of goal for Young-Mi. If they had a last wish for their daughter, it would be a great motivation for her to stay on a certain path. Then the film could tempt her with something else, and suddenly she'd be in a dilemma. That would probably also make for a lot more interesting story.
In all fairness the film does break the format in the last half hour, when it begins to play with the love story. But until then, it's completely safe, and thoroughly inoffensive. There's also a lack of focus in the story, because the film is busy with many subplots and side stories, and doesn't manage to tie them together until very late in the game.
These shortcomings notwithstanding, "Daddy Long Legs is a tough film to hate. Mostly because Ha Ji-Won is so damn adorable in the lead. She may not have much to work with, but honestly, she could be sitting on a chair in an empty room, reading the phonebook, and I'd still watch. And while a film like this may not exactly be a stretch for her, she's perfect for the part. She's irresistible and I get completely lost when I watch the contours of her face, as she acts herself though the quirky, awkward and tender situations she comes across.
Don't get me wrong, while the film has problems with the overall flow, many of the individual scenes work well. The film is filled with beautiful tender scenes, and plenty of funny ones too. Take this scene for example: Young-Mi receives a giant teddy bear from her secret benefactor. Later we meet her in a little restaurant, where she's getting drunk while musing over the strange turn of events in her life. It takes a moment before the film shows us who her dinner companion is. It's the teddy bear of course! It's sitting on a chair across from her, with its own drink! How funny is that?
"Daddy Long Legs" moves with the speed of a dead snail, there's absolutely nothing dangerous or risky about anything in this story, everything is nice and neat. In other words, if you're looking for a film that's playing on the edge, you'll be bored out of your skull. If you're looking for an emotional drama that looks deep into the human soul, you'll feel distanced and frustrated.
So here's the deal: Suppose you just feel like hiding from the cruel world for a few hours with box of Kleenex. Suppose you just want to waste an evening lying on the couch watching a beautiful Asian girl. Or suppose you're in the mood for a film that enjoys the moment, and is in no hurry to get to the next scene. Feel like admitting you belong to one of those categories? Then grab "Daddy Long Legs" from the shelf, and don't look back.