2007 / Hur Jin-ho > Christmas in August is one of the most subtle yet poignant melodramas I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. The manner in which Hur brought forth the quiet yet powerful emotions of the leading characters was a stellar achievement in Korean filmmaking, but similar to Lee Chang-dong’s infuriating effort in Secret Sunshine, Happiness is filled with the kind of manipulative plot advancement that would make Paul Haggis proud. Gone is Hur’s gentle, effective touch, and found is a story where each successive sequence increases our dislike of the leading characters who we’re supposed to feel pity for. The trick is to realize that good melodrama is not based on pity but rather empathy, and characters who we find to be pathetic are not generally those who we can genuinely empathize with. Happiness is not horrible by any means, but there’s a level of anger present when realizing how much Hur’s filmmaking is regressing with each passing work.