Director Moon Hyeon-seong's hugely enjoyable Korean sports film As One, based on real-life events, employs familiar genre tropes—archrivals who must overcome their differences in order to triumph, the rookie underdog slowly coming into her own as a master athlete—to pull the viewer into what is, at heart, a moving (if chaste) Sapphic love story. In 1991, the North and South Korean governments ordered their respective champion table tennis teams to unite in order to represent a unified Korea at that year's World Table Tennis Championship in Chiba, Japan. That meant that the former warring teams had to put aside deep-rooted rivalries in order to defeat their shared foe, China. Moon, working from a screenplay by Yoo Young-ah and Kwon Sung-hwee that deftly alternates drama and broad comedy, hits all the marks masterfully—quickly sketching in the backstories and personalities of individual players, untangling culture clashes as the varied mores and traditions of the two countries collide, and even deploying a decoy ill-fated hetero love story as the film slowly tracks the romance between South Korea’s top player, Hyeon Jeong-hwa (Ha Ji-won), and North Korea’s Lee Bun Hee (Bae Doona). Blessed with solid performances from both his leads and supporting cast, Moon is able to orchestrate it all into a tearjerker ending that might have you reaching for the Kleenex.
Moon Hyeon SeongDoona Bae, Yoon Yeong Choi, Ji-won Ha, Ye-ri Han, Dong Hwan, Jonghoon Jyung, Mike Meier, Jeong-se Oh, Cheol-min Park, Paul StaffordCJ Entertainment