Review: 만추 (Manchu/Late Autumn)

47 thoughts on “Review: 만추 (Manchu/Late Autumn)”

  1. I’m quite partial to Hyun Bin myself, if I had been in the screening, I’d probably be one of the people sighing too 🙂
    Based on most of the reviews I’ve read, it seems like Anna is the linchpin of the story, the movie is essentially about her emotional journey. Would that be an accurate description? I was looking forward to the movie mostly because of Hyun Bin, (I’ve never seen Tang Wei in anything before) but in the age of too many movies with Manic Pixie Dream Girls, it would be nice to see a movie that focuses on the woman’s emotional journey for a change.

    1. Well, the film is essentially told through her point of view – sort of at least, as there is no voiceover and Anna doesn’t speak all that much. But we learn more about her than Hyun Bin’s character because of that. It’s her story, but he does figure prominently in it, once he starts appearing.
      I had never seen Tang Wei in anything before this film either, but she is excellent. She’s actually quite a chameleon – she sort of comes across as plain, but when she dresses up (in a fabulous little black dress that I really, really like, plus earrings, lipstick and fancy jacket) she suddenly looks absolutely glamorous and almost unrecognisable. You can get a sense of that in the first trailer I linked. Because she speaks rather little, as a viewer you have to piece together her emotional journey through careful observation – a lot is suggested in her silences, in gestures she makes, her eyes, the physical reaction of her body, etc. Only a good actress can achieve that – especially conveying emotions through lack of reactions/gestures etc.
      As for Hyun Bin, I’d probably think to myself “Ah, he’s gorgeous” (okay, I did think that when I was watching :-)), but I’d be too self-conscious to sigh aloud. But maybe collective sighs are something that you can commonly hear in Korean cinemas?

      1. I’m not Korean or from Korea, so I’m not sure how common the collective sigh thing is. But maybe it’s because the Late Autumn screening was mostly attended by women as well. I know when i’ve gone to the movies, I feel a lot more self-conscious to laugh, cry or react audibly in any way when there’s a lot of guys around, heh.

      2. I just recently got into watching Korean movies & shows. Just got the wind of watching this movie. It has a sad but hopeful theme. I am sappy for a happy ending for both these lonely characters to find their ever after happiness.
        Thank you.

  2. Wow! I love your review of “Late autumn”
    one burning question : why didnt the guy turn up ? Possibly he got arrested and suffered the same fate as Anna?

    1. Thank you! That’s a lovely compliment to receive.
      Actually, quite a few people end up on my blog after typing in the query words “Late Autumn ending”, which has made me think I should write something more about the ending. I think the final scene is open to interpretation. I don’t think we can say for certain that he didn’t show up. Anna is waiting and starts playing, like they did earlier – which may be an indication that he has just shown up (except we don’t get a shot of him). Or that she is still waiting, and will keep waiting until he does appear. I’m certain this very-open-to-interpretation ending was done on purpose, so as to leave viewers to conclude the film in whichever way they prefer. Judging from keywords that lead people to my blog, I think many would have preferred something more definite. Personally I don’t mind, because I think it suits the film’s overall style very well and a definite happy ending would have been too much like Hollywood (even if in my mind I am giving them a happy end 🙂 ).

      1. Also, some more thoughts: I do think that Hoon has suffered a similar fate as Anna, even more so because their situations are set up as parallel. As I mentioned at the beginning of the review, although the system has convincted Anna, we as viewers are given the option to doubt this and believe in her innocence (or at least that her husband’s death was not a straightforward affair as the law/other people made it out to be). With Hoon we also know that the situation isn’t as his accusers make it out to be, that he hasn’t done anything bad (other than flirt with clients) and that he is being framed. In other words, there is also plenty of reason to think that even if he ended up in prison (likely), he will, just like Anna, be released at some point.
        Whether he does show up or not, is up to the viewer’s imagination but we can read something into Anna’s actions. Her starting to play at least indicates that she is okay, or going to be okay, no matter what follows (Hoon appearing or not). We have to remember, after all, that she was an extremely withdrawn and quiet person and that the play-acting with Hoon was one of the things that pulled her out of her shell. Hence, play-acting in the final scene is a positive signal – Anna has changed, for the better.
        It’s been a while since I have seen the film though, so I hope I am remembering everything correctly!

  3. Out of all the reviews i’ve read. this ones probably the best. and the ending somewhat explained. well said. i still feel very sad by the ending. very real life like. “happy endings are only in the movies” but, yet this one ended almost disappointing, but at the same time, like how it should’ve. perfect even. i know you wrote this review awhile back. i’ve just finally found the time to watch it and read reviews and whatnot. just now. but thanks for the review and comments on the film hehe

    1. Thanks! I tried not to spoil the ending too much, but I still intend to write a separate (and more spoilerish) post at some point since a lot of people seem to find this post by googling “Late Autumn ending”. But at this point I would want to rewatch the film, it’s been such a long time since I saw it!

  4. I love this review. It has given me a new way of looking at the film as a whole (and not just the ambiguous ending, which has haunted me since I saw the movie). I had not thought in terms of Anna learning (or relearning) how to play. But Hoon does give her that. One of my favorite playful scenes is at the dismantling of the Fun Forest, where Hoon and Anna narrate the confrontation between the strange man and woman (which literally turns into a flight of fancy).
    One of the publicity shots shows Anna and Hoon beside a Metro bus. The destination is Othello Station. That had to have been a deliberate choice, given the theme of jealous (and murderous – or potentially murderous, if Anna was defending herself) husbands. When I first noticed it, I crowed with delight.
    Regarding the ending, I have three main leanings. One is that Hoon does appear. One is that Hoon is in prison. And one is that Hoon is dead … murdered by the man who framed him, or shot by the police while trying to escape. The last one is almost unbearable to me.
    (On a completely unrelated note, I am a Seattleite, and this is by far and away the most beautiful portrayal of the city that I have ever seen.)

    1. Thanks. 🙂 I am glad you enjoyed the review, statistically it’s the most read review one my blog but I think part of that is because people don’t know what to make of the ending. (One of the top keywords that lands people on this blog is “Late Autumn ending”!)
      I so did not notice Othello Station, but then since I have no experience of Seattle (one day I’d love to visit!), that’s not surprising. What a delightful detail, yet one more. In my mind, it’s Kim Tae-yong’s best film yet, even if it wasn’t particularly successful in his native country.
      As for the ending: in my mind Hoon appears. If not that at that moment, then in the near future. The last option is definitely unbearable!

      1. I must admit, I got to your site and your review by using that exact search term! Sometimes I am so carried away by a story that I don’t have time to analyze it. Other times, as my husband says, I play chess with a story, working out the next move in the plot. This was definitely in the “carried away” category. And since I’ve only seen it the one time, I know there were cues and shadings that I missed.
        Here’s a link to the photo with the bus to Othello Station.

      2. Oh, it’s a perfectly fine way to land here. 🙂 I have thought as well to one day to dedicate a post to the ending of Late Autumn, because people do seem to have a need for it, though I haven’t yet managed to get around to it (I would have to rewatch the film as well I think).
        “I play chess with a story, working out the next move in the plot” – wow, nice metaphor to describe film-watching!

  5. Tang Wei’s acting is poignant and affecting. It’s proof that acting need not be about lines – body language can impart an equally riveting act.

  6. I think the kiss at the end was in a dream. I don’t think the jelous husband would have let Hoon go say good-bye to Anna.It shows Anna waking up on the bus. I don’t think he appears at the end either. I also think if he would have went into the hotel room with the wife then the husband would have killed him too. When hoon gets back to his hotel room you see an ambulance going by. I think it is going to the wife’s hotel room. I did not care for the dance scene in the middle of the movie. I also think it should have had English subs. It is hard to watch Anna cry at the wake but I also know that she had to let her grief out that was so bottled up. I Love Hyun Bin speaking English. Every time I watch this I notice more littls things. Am I the only one who thinks the kiss was a dream?

    1. I have never heard anyone else suggest it’s a dream, that’s a new theory I would have to think about. Hmmmm…
      I’m not sure the jealous husband would have cared so much, it’s Anna after all, not his own wife.

      1. i think the kiss scene should have come before the abduction scene.that would have made more sense.It was still foggy in the kissing scene but the fog was lifting in the abduction scene.I don’t think the jelous husband would have allowed Hoon out of his sight to go and kiss Anna.He may have tried to run.I also think the husband would have killed Hoon if he had stayed with his wife and made it look like murder/suicide.So by going back to see Anna saved his life.He never would have gotten to go to the funeral or taken the bus ride back.The kiss scene was amazing so I hope it was not a dream but I don’t see how it could have been real.I am glad Anna and Hoon found each other if only for a short time!!!

        1. That is an interesting point about the kiss perhaps being a dream. There was something about the timing of those several scenes that felt a bit strange to me. Now I’m going to have to go back and watch the movie again! (O the horror of it all!) Isn’t it interesting how such a “quiet” movie can have such a lingering effect on the imagination?

        2. Yes, I’m going to have to go back and watch this movie again as well… it’s been two years, so I don’t remember all the details.
          Plus, I think it is the kind of film that you want to rewatch anyhow, because you’ll always find something new.
          @Holly – it’s a quiet movie, but Kim Tae-yong made it with much care, for sure – really thinking through the details and giving us a lot to ponder. That’s why it lingers.

      2. I enjoyed the review, and found it more insightful and sympathetic than the others I’ve read. I just finished watching the film, and was compelled to go online and see how others interpreted the ending.
        It did occur to me briefly when Anna woke up on the bus that she had been dreaming the kiss, but upon reflection I don’t think so. She woke up with Hoon’s coat draped over her, and when she comes back with coffee for both of them and realizes that he’s gone, she notices that she has his watch on her wrist. Since he had the coat on when he was grabbed by the jealous husband, he must have gone to see her afterwards, and that’s when they kissed. Then she went to take a nap on the bus, and he left his coat and watch with her, and went to meet his fate. Given the director’s attention to detail, I think the order of these last moments is intentional.
        Also, the husband says that he wanted to meet the man that his wife fell in love with, and that the police are on the way. Then he lets Hoon walk away and call the wife, getting only her voice-mail. The husband can’t kill Hoon at this point because he needs him to take the fall for his wife’s murder. He has framed him, and there’s seemingly nowhere for him to go. It’s plausible that he doesn’t keep him under supervision after that, giving Hoon time (and the impetus) to kiss Anna and leave his things for her while she naps on the bus.
        I also think that the kiss is the climax of the film, the release of the tension that has been slowly building between them. It’s the moment that they truly find each other, and accept their mutual attraction. They find each other, but they can’t stay together because they are, almost literally, two ships passing in the night.
        As for the ending, from what we know of Hoon’s character it seemed likely to me that he would have run before the police got there. He tells Anna “I’ll see you here when you get out”, which indicates that he doesn’t intend to go to jail. In this case, when Anna is waiting in the café after her release and says “hi, it’s been a long time”, we can allow ourselves to hope that he has arrived and is standing just off-camera.
        On the other hand, there is a tragic symmetry to Hoon going to jail for a murder he didn’t commit, and Anna having been in jail for what we assume was justifiable self-defense against a violently abusive husband. It seems intentional and gives a greater meaning and structure to the film. This is supported by the wistful way she says “hi, it’s been a long time”, as she is looking down at the table pensively, and that last smile and small chuckle she makes could be her thinking of him, and their moments of playfulness. In a way this is a hopeful ending too, because it signals her release from the prison of her own sadness and numbness.
        As you say in your review, there was only one way the film could end, and that’s ambiguously. It works because we can imagine both scenarios, but are spoon-fed neither. I thought it was a very slow film at times, but I was tired when I watched it. I realized by the end that the slow pace and the deft subtlety of the acting and action allowed the few intense scenes to pack much more punch. It’s a beautiful film, and I will certainly watch it again – though I’ve have a coffee first.

        1. I landed here on googling for the movie’s ending and I find this explanation of the sequence of events the most logical.. I just watched the movie yesterday..
          The original review by Marlies is excellent!

      3. I am glad people are still finding and reading this review four years after I wrote it! Seems the film really affected you – you have some interesting interpretations here. I agree that Hoon isn’t likely to end up dead, not from the hands of the husband. I guess it’s possible that Hoon would run, but I feel the symmetry of situations that the director set up is strong. So in my interpretation, he’s more likely to go to jail for a while, and end up meeting Anna later.
        Yes, it’s a slow film, probably better watched with some coffee in hand. I don’t know if you watch a lot of Korean/Japanese (arthouse) films, a lot of them are long (I no longer think of a two-hour runtime as unusual, as that seems to be the norm for many Japanese films) and some can be quite slow. I would recommend Come Rain, Come Shine (also reviewed on the blog) if you want to try another quite beautiful, slow and thoughtful film.
        Thanks for commenting!

        1. wow. 10 years after the release of the film.
          i recently developed an intense fan-love for Hyun Bin, which is why i took it upon myself to watch all of his work. Every content he’s worked in, is fictional and fantasy. this film was something that, i felt, hit very close to reality. not in terms of prison, but in terms of emotions and how they impact our personality.
          a little too late on the bandwagon but still, i’m very glad i got to watch this masterpiece. and yes, i landed on this page in search of finding the comfort of a happy ending explanation. your review was very insightful indeed. thank you for having such interest and respect for this industry and such works of art.

  7. wow… this film ws truly superb n ya ur rite I too ended up here searching 4 d ending! lol..
    I dint understand what exactly happened in the end ( the only reason that made me dissatisfied with the plot).
    according to me hoon dint return atleast while anna was doing d play-act n if u ask me the reason then I don’t want to find it either coz I knw it will b a painful 1 🙁
    overall ignoring d ending scene n d benefit of doubt there in “LATE AUTUMN” is a silent… talking-without-words movie!
    the actress is undoubtedly phenomenal while hyun bin… ahh he’s a complete charmer! <3
    thanks alua ur blog is wonderful n helped me to calm my mind which was otherwise restless after watching the confusing end!
    kamsamidham (aka THANK U 🙂 )

    1. Everyone ends up here searching for the ending, so we’re a happy party here, all pondering what that final scene might mean!
      I’m glad I helped calm your mind 🙂
      And thanks for the compliments, much appreciated!

  8. Great review of the movie. I feel like you are someone that actually knows cinema and has studied it some.
    I know most of the discussion is around the ending, but I was curious about whether if anyone had any comment on the restaurant fight scene when Wang Jing (sp?) says I’m Sorry. I felt that was a very touching moment. Clearly he was partly responsible for Anna’s fate and didn’t have the opportunity to apologize. I felt that was one of the more underrated moments in the movie.
    About the ending, I thought it was beautifully done. Of course not satisfying like a definite ending, but this movie could have only ended in this way.
    I am also a Seattleite, and at first I was curious whether if the movie would represent the city accurately. Not only did I feel like it was an accurate portrayal of the city itself, but it presented the city beautifully. These days (at the time of this post, 2016) Seattle has changed a lot and is less an understated, demure city than it used to be; feels more like a crowded, rowdy San Francisco. But still, I appreciate this movie’s snapshot of the city as well – beautifully done.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I haven’t really studied cinema – my background is in comparative literature so a lot of how one “reads a text” applies to film (in fact, film is a sort of ‘text’). Plus, I dabble in photography so there’s some visual appreciation (though I understand still images better than moving images).
      It has been five years since I saw Late Autumn. I will need to rewatch the film to comment on the scene you mention – I can’t remember it at all. I might do that, I’m sure after all these years watching Late Autumn again would allow me to see things I didn’t notice before. I’ll put it on my to-do list, for when I finish my degree in a few months’ time! (My blog is currently on hiatus, until I’m all done with uni.)
      I have not been to Seattle yet myself, would love to visit one day – I have heard plenty of good things about it!

  9. “Late Autumn ended in a satisfying enough manner” ??
    — I don’t agree. A sudden ending where we don’t know what happened.

    1. It’s up to the viewer to decide what happens – it’s an artsy movie, so this kind of ending comes with the territory.
      I don’t mind, but I can also understand why others might find it frustrating and simply not good enough!

  10. I loved the film which I admit I watched for Hyun Bin. I do feel, as I can, that Anna and Hoon meet later in the same place. But after she waits there for a long time, maybe even sets up a small diner
    I loved how Anna finds release for her pent up emotions in the antics of Hoon. How she is able to understand his play at once and carry it on, eg. providing the dialogue between the couple on the other side of the glass and “He used my fork” play.
    Anna realises she needs someone new to carry on and forget her previous life, not someone from the old set. Here is where Hoon is perfect. I also like that Hoon and Anna are Asian but from different countries, in a country where the people lump them together under the head of ‘Asians’.
    I need to see the film once again.

  11. Personally, I don’t really have anything against a happy ending (I don’t really want to term it an “Hollywood” ending, since there are certainly Hollywood movies with a tragic or open-ended ending, from Gran Torino to Inception, and at the same time, there are non-Hollywood movies with hopeful endings, such as Finding Mr. Right 1/2 or Crossing Hennessy), I don’t think that it is necessarily banal or unrealistic, nor that having an hopeful or uplifting conclusion would “ruin” an otherwise good movie.
    On the other hand, I don’t really think that a tragic ending would have been a cop-out. I wouldn’t have liked it (though I admit that this is more of a personal preference), and in general I don’t equate tragedy with profundity, so I don’t think such a conclusion would necessarily make a film deeper, or more realistic, than having a hopeful or optimistic ending (on the contrary, if that was the reason it was put there, I would consider it hacky, phony, a cheap trick of emotional manipulation, and banal).
    I think that “cop-out” suggests a feeling of avoidance of a confrontation or decision, and having a tragic conclusion would still mean making a definite choice as to what happens, rather than letting the viewer decide. If I wanted to use the term “cop-out”, what I would have in mind would be more on the line of the open-ended finale (I know that it is a trend in artsy films… as with tragedy, I don’t think that by itself it makes the movie inherently more profound or superior to giving it an optimistic conclusion).
    While I don’ think that a hopeful conclusion would ruin an otherwise good story, or that a tragic conclusion would automatically be superior, deeper, more realistic -to me this line of thinking is just cynical, not profound, and, if the rationale is that “to be deep artsy films can’t end on a hopeful note”, it would be unoriginal and banal-, my opinion actually mirrors yours in that I would take open-ended over tragic, that way at least I have the option of imagining that things turned out in a positive way.

  12. With regards to the ending, this quote came to mind –
    “If you give an answer to your viewer, your film will simply finish in the movie theatre. But when you pose questions, your film actually begins after people watch it. In fact, your film will continue inside the viewer.”
    Quote: Asghar Farhadi Iranian Film Director and Screenwriter.
    I do like movies/dramas that leave me thinking after watching and this movie did just that for me 🙂
    Your valuable insight and the comments above are much appreciated – thank you 🙂

  13. Hey there! I love your review and the comments people posted on this page!! It’s been 9 years since the movie released but still your review is the best!! Thank you.

  14. I finally got to watch this movie after searching for months. I used to live in Seattle and I thought it was beautifully shot ( especially in all of my favorite neighborhood spots) but it did jump around to various areas of the city that weren’t really near each other and made to seem like they do. But then again, if you never lived there, you would never know :). But I still liked the movie and I thought the ending was actually great. I never cared for typical Hollywood ending. I don’t know if the guy actually came back, I don’t think so..but he had given her hope for the last 2 years that he would be there and I think that’s the key point. He came into her life when she needed some hope and happiness. And maybe that’s how life turns out – people come into your life for a reason and my not necessarily stay forever. He in a way saved her .. but ended up not being able to save himself. The movie is also about the consequences of our actions. You reap what you sow and you live with it. She had to go to prison, he probably ended up meeting a sad fate. But he did sleep with someone else’s wife. I know this is probably a bit depressing .. but it’s a realistic look at life. The more I think about this movie, the more I like it. Thanks for giving me an outlet in this blog to go over my thoughts. Oh yeah and the reason I looked for this movie because I am a new Hyun Bin fan, he was great but the actress was also wonderful.

  15. Hello, it’s 2020! And it should be no surprise that this pandemic has brought many of us fangirling over Hyun Bin. I, too am a new fan because of his latest drama of course. So, I did what most fans did, watched Hyun Bin films. I made sure I didn’t read any spoilers before watching this film. I loved it. Yes, it is an “artsy” film and that’s why I appreciate it. And, just like many I think the ending can be interpreted different ways.
    My take on it, remember when there was a group of patrons doing the ghost tour? So, what do I think? That part connected me to the ending. Sadly, I think Hoon was killed. And his ghost was the one who kissed Anna either in a dream or in that foggy area. His last words, “I’ll see you here when you get out”. He leaves her his watch and coat “to remember” him by. Anna doesn’t know it yet, but I think she’s supposed to go back to the last place where they kissed and that’s where he would re-appear but only to her. I know it’s tragic and sad!! But that’s the kind of ending that made this film so touching to me, at least.
    Thanks again for having this. I read all the reviews. Very much appreciated!

  16. I’ve only just watched this. Soon after i typed in my search regarding the ending, and found myself here. What a great film and what a great review. Ive loved reading all the comments also.

    1. Apologies for the belated reply! Even years after this review was written, people are enjoying it and the comment section, which I’m happy about. Glad you found your way here!

  17. Its 2021 and i just finished watching the movie, the ending is exactly what i am here for i almost panicked of how they made it look like it all was in illusion tbh i don’t know why she talked to someone at the end but before she does the door of the place was opned and i can hear a noise but not sure if it footsteps noise! So I really can’t tell if he made it and showed up but what also i can’t be, he can’t be an illusion she dreamed of because of many things, the fight scene and the watch and the coat! I rradt the comments and i gained alot of points of views and it was fun reading your thoughts, actually i don’t also think the jealous man killed him because he wouldn’t say that he called the police and he wouldn’t wait i guess he really wanted to make it sound like hoon is the one who did as a punishment and he left him go away so i don’t either think it will be a problem if he left hoon go and meet anna, i guess he told her to meet him here because he didn’t know when she will be out i guess he thought he can run away? I don’t really know what he was thinking about i keep running away from the thought of him being dead for me if he got arrested is better because they can meet again there is hope for that, what made me comfortable when anna woke up she was covered with his coat so it wasn’t a dream and she came back at the same place so the kiss also not a dream, but the look in her eyes when she looked towards the police car is confusing i mean did she saw him dead or arrested? maybe arrested but she came any way to the same place because ofc he won’t be out yet… Honestly i hate opening ending so much because you just can’t comfort yourself with one ending u made up because there are alot of other options and most of them are so sad to even think of, i hope he just got arrested and actually showed up so thats why she spoke to someone (hoon) in the cafe

  18. Hi, read some lovely reviews on here. I personally believe that Hoon did not die, he had to face the system, and the woman’s husband would not have gone through so much just to kill him. About the ending, as many mentioned before, I believe it is about healing, regardless of whether Anna ends up with Hoon, she has certainly changed her perception of life. In fact, this contrast is clear when she is freed from prison, she is dressed much more elegantly, unlike when she went to her mother’s funeral. She is also more playful and indulging as she takes time to enjoy a piece of cake and have tea/coffee. Hoon’s encounter gave her hope to live for two years and then even after that. She is hopeful of meeting him again and cherishes the moments she spent with him as she plays with the fork and continues the play-act as if she met him.

    Lastly, one aspect that was not mentioned was the motive behind Anna killing her husband, this is a different perspective and I may be off. However, in the beginning, we see a bruised Anna walking down the street after killing her husband. She looks like a victim of abuse, and that is the idea the director gives us. However, when she was waiting for Hoon in the room in Seatle, she attempts to self-inflict wounds by bashing her head against the damaged door and wall, she even punches it. It could be a sign of frustration, but it does send a message that she does tend to inflict self-harm, and is there a remote possibility that she did the same when her husband was dead?! After all, she wanted to get away with her former lover, and she eventually paid for that by losing her life until she found Hoon and she was loved without judgement. Overall, it is a terrific movie!! 10/10 for all aspects.

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