Following nates comments, here are my thoughts on Failan (2001)
Directed by Hae-sung Song
Starring Min-sik Choi (Oldboy, Happy End), Cecilia Cheung (One Night in Mongkok)
Kang-jae (Min-sik Choi) is a lowlife thug of a gangster, despised by everyone including himself. His life is going nowhere and even the other gang members treat him as a joke, a has-been, garbage and pitiful.
Failan (Cecilia Cheung) is a young pretty woman who has lost all her relatives apart from a couple who live in Korea. Its only on arriving there that she discovers theyve moved to Canada, leaving her stranded, nowhere to go and trying to find some way of staying in Korea.
Kang-jae marries Failan (for a price) but they never actually meet. She is taken to a town and put to work in a laundry, the only time that Kang jae hears about his wife, is when he is informed of her death, this is where the story really begins.
Flashbacks show Failans life after the marriage, letters she has written to him (which he reads for the first time while travelling to her funeral) connect the past with the present. Something, a tiny little thing, affects Kang-jae. A tiny comment slowly but surely causes a genuine sense of feeling, of guilt, of affection and loss.
This man who the day before couldnt sink any lower finds something, a kindness from a stranger so touching that it literally tears his whole being apart.
As he goes through the inevitable ID and funeral service you can sense the change, this woman has given him something that nobody else can or has ever wanted to, a reason to live, a missed opportunity but a chance to gain some self respect.
Where will this lead him, how will the other gangsters especially his boss (who wants him to take the rap for a murder) react?
A well constructed melodrama with very good performances from the leads, definitely recommended and quite an affecting/effective film.
No BBFC rating but at least 15 (swearing and violence)
Region 3 ntsc dvd available from several suppliers.