'Remember' confronts Korea-Japan societal issues in emotional revenge story

Actor Lee Sung-min as Pil-joo, right, in the upcoming revenge thriller film ″Remember″ [ACE MOVIE MAKERS]

While watching "Remember" for the first time, the film's lead actor Lee Sung-min shyly admitted that he shed a few silent tears.

"I held myself back from sobbing because my co-star Nam Joo-hyuk was sitting next to me during the screening, and it was embarrassing to cry during a movie that I was in," he told the press during an interview in Jongno District, central Seoul.

“Remember” is an upcoming revenge action film that revolves around a man in his 80s named Pil-joo, played by Lee. After being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Pil-joo goes on a killing spree to seek revenge against pro-Japanese people in Korea who led to his entire family's death.

Actor Lee Sung-min [ACE MOVIE MAKERS]

Lee’s tears, albeit for his own movie, are understandable as “Remember” is not only about a thrilling revenge spree but also an incredibly heartfelt story about the remnants of Korea’s colonial period (1910-45) in current day society.

“The film addresses emotional topics that are often avoided in our society,” director Lee Il-hyung said in another interview on Tuesday, at a cafe in Jongno District.

It especially raises the subject of punishment for those who betrayed Korea and sided with the Japanese for money and power during the Japanese colonization period. Many of them today sit at high positions in society, which the film depicts as well.

“I hope this film can spark more productive conversations about these societal issues,” said Lee.

Actor Lee Sung-min, middle, as Pil-joo in ″Remember″ [ACE MOVIE MAKERS]

“Remember” is actually based off of a Canadian film of the same title that was released in 2015. The original recounts the story of an old Jewish man who carries out revenge against Nazis.

“I came across the film by chance and loved it so much that I decided to do a remake,” said director Lee.

Director Lee Il-hyung [ACE MOVIE MAKERS]

He has made some changes, however.

“The original is a small road movie, but the remake is intended to be a commercial film,” Lee said. “So I added parts, often witty and light, that would help the film communicate with the audience better.”

Actor Nam Joo-hyuk’s character, In-gyu, was also newly added to the Korean remake. In-gyu is a young man in his 20s working a part-time job at TGI Fridays with Pil-joo. He becomes embroiled in Pil-joo’s string of murders after unknowingly driving Pil-joo to his crime scenes. His face gets exposed by a security camera and he becomes a prime suspect in Pil-joo’s crimes.

Actors Lee Sung-min, left, and Nam Joo-hyuk during a scene in the upcoming film ″Remember″ [ACE MOVIE MAKERS]

“I thought that Joo-hyuk’s character was necessary to make Pil-joo more believable,” said director Lee. “I needed a character who would realistically react to Pil-joo’s absurd acts throughout the film.”

So, for the role of In-gyu, director Lee looked for an actor who is “plain” and “as close to society’s idea of a normal guy in his 20s.”

“Of course, just by looking at Joo-hyuk, he certainly isn’t an average guy because he is so tall and handsome-looking,” he said, laughing. “But there is something in his acting that makes everything he does and says very believable.”

Actor Lee praised Nam as well.

“He was very mature,” said Lee. “I was surprised to find out later that he was still in his 20s!”

Actors Lee Sung-min, left, and Nam Joo-hyuk during a scene in the upcoming film ″Remember″ [ACE MOVIE MAKERS]

He added that he was thankful to Nam for his realistic reactions to Pil-joo’s revenge plan and killings, which he said made the film and Pil-joo more believable.

“My character is a bit less realistic, especially because I am pretending to be a person in their 80s,” said actor Lee, who turns 54 in December.

Actor Nam Joo-hyuk as In-gyu, right, in the upcoming movie ″Remember″ [ACE MOVIE MAKERS]

He and director Lee both said that making him look believable as a senile man was their biggest focus and worry while shooting the film.

“The makeup team tried a lot of different makeup on me,” said actor Lee Sung-min. “The final makeup that we decided to go with took about four hours at first, then, later, was shortened to two.

“Until the fifth day of shooting, I would ask everyone all the time if Lee Sung-min really looked old,” said director Lee. “I couldn’t risk having the lead actor looking awkward and unbelievable as his character.”

Actor Lee Sung-min as Pil-joo in the upcoming movie ″Remember″ [ACE MOVIE MAKERS]

Another aspect of the film that director Lee Il-hyung focused on was adding momentum.

Because it is, ultimately, a film about an old man, director Lee said that he used items like a red Porsche, which actors Lee and Nam drive around in the movie, to add a sense of excitement.

There are also action scenes by actor Lee Sung-min.

“Performing action scenes as an old man was harder than I thought!” Lee exclaimed. “I tried to relay a sense of fierceness while moving slowly.”

"Remember" will premiere in local theaters on Oct. 26.

Lee Sung-min, left, and his red Porsche in the upcoming film ″Remember″ [ACE MOVIE MAKERS]