Coffee Mate (2016) by Yi Hyun-ha

“Coffee Mate” is a movie that deals with the human relationships and emphasizes the fact that a person’s character is formed by his/her experiences and past mistakes.


“Coffe Mate” is a notable debut film by Yi Hyan-ha, who also pens the script. It premiered at the 21st Busan International Film Festival and has Yoon Jin-seo and Oh Ji-ho as the protagonists.

The script revolves around In-Young (Yoon Jin-seo), a young housewife married to a doctor, who frequently goes to a cafe to read books. Hee-Soo (Oh Ji-ho), a carpenter, also goes at the same cafe, every day during his break from work. In-Young wishes Hee-Soo to speak to her but at the same time she is frightened of the outcome.

One day, her wishes but also fears come true as Hee-Soo approaches her and asks to sit with her. From that day on, they become coffee mates and agree to only meet at the cafe, no meetings outside the cafe, no calls, no texts. During their meetings, they talk about their past and about their deepest secrets. Inevitably, through their conversations they come emotionally closer.  The story of their meetings is presented through flashbacks while In-Young tells the events to Yoon-jo (Kim Min-seo), who is a writer.


Despite the simple premise of “Coffe Mate”, Yi Hyan-ha pens a film that involves a deeper thinking. Through the dialogues, the conversations and the sharing of secrets, Yi Hyan-ha highlights the human nature and behavior and makes a study of the protagonists’ psychosynthesis and of the people that are involved in their lives. On one hand, he underlines the qualities someone looks for in the opposite gender and the values a romantic relationship must or should have and on the other hand he presents the marriage as a vehicle to elevate social status and overcome poverty.

Every single sentence in the movie communicates deeper messages, which demand some thoughts as they linger in the minds of the spectator. Moreover, the film evokes critical thinking and sheds a light behind the motives of human actions and interactions, especially when someone falls deeply in love. Interesting enough, the director/writer Yi Hyan-ha presents various opinions and different perspectives for each of the aforementioned actions. As an example, one of the numerous themes is the one of jealously. Jealously for siblings, for friends, for boyfriends and girlfriends. For the former, the jealously regarding their seemingly perfect life, and for the later, the jealously and fear for a sudden change of heart and disappearance.

Three scenes are exceptional from various aspects, make the film stand out and deserve a special mention and attention. The first one is the metaphorical use of the Sirens from Homer's "Odyssey" who lure sailors with their enchanting music The second one is a scene where In-Young is torn between the decision to cause great pain to her one and only friend. This scene is an utterly suspenseful one and is quite unique for this type of movie. Nevertheless, it is a nice surprise. Finally, the third scene that stands out is the one that a minor plot twist occurs.


The two main characters, despite their somewhat sinful" past, are both very likable and humane characters and remind us that everyone has flaws and virtues.  Oh Ji-ho portrays the shy but at the same extremely straightforward, honest and talkative Hee-su exceptionally well. He is one of the few actors that combines softness and emotion with great manly looks. On the contrary, Yoon Jin-seo is an actress that generally has stiff expressions; however, she successfully delivers a very solid performance.

Finally, the production values are excellent. From the cinematography by Kim hok-bae to the sporadic melodic piano music, all fit perfectly the aesthetics of the film.

“Coffee Mate” is a movie that deals with  human relationships and emphasizes the fact that a person’s character is formed by his/her experiences and past mistakes. At the end of the movie what has importance is not if the two main characters stay together, but  the realization of what someone needs and expects from his/her life, what truly matters for him/her, and, at the end, to do something about it. For all the aforementioned reasons, “Coffee Mate” is a movie worth watching.


“Coffee Mate” is released from M-Line Distribution

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Asian Film Vault: Coffee Mate (2016) by Yi Hyun-ha
Coffee Mate (2016) by Yi Hyun-ha
“Coffee Mate” is a movie that deals with the human relationships and emphasizes the fact that a person’s character is formed by his/her experiences and past mistakes.
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