Late Autumn is a love story that's set in Seattle. The lovers are Anna (Tang Wei) and Hoon (Hyun Bin). Anna is Chinese; Hoon is Korean. Anna is serving serious time in a Washington State correction center for women; Hoon is a gigolo on the run. They meet on a bus that's heading to Seattle. Anna does not speak Korean, and Hoon does not speak Chinese, so they speak (and much of the film is conducted in) the global language of science and business, English. Their English is not broken, but their lives are. Seattle is their last city.
The slow and beautifully photographed love story is bookended by a single building (spatially) and genre (narratively). Let me explain: The building is Union Station; the genre is the crime film. Union Station plays the role of the point of entry and exit for the movie—it is a bus station in Pioneer Square. The building plays this role superbly, not only because it's a handsome work of early 20th-century railroad architecture (the classical details, the vault, the bulkiness) but also because it actually is the center of public transportation activity in Seattle—it houses Sound Transit employees; the light rail is below it; King Street Station is across the street from it. When the lovers enter foggy Seattle, the building looms behind them.
The film also opens with a murder and ends with a murder. The first murder introduces Anna, the second leaves Hoon in a mist of mystery. Late Autumn turns out to be a break between two crime films that we only see the traces and remains of (a corpse on a floor, blood on a purse). This is the slow time after and before the action, guns, and mayhem. In one scene at the middle of the movie, the lovers ride a Duck. A fog hangs over the city, the passengers blow the plastic beaks, the Duck enters the cold and gray waters of Lake Union. At this moment, everything becomes so clear: Late Autumn is to Seattle what The Portuguese Nun is to Lisbon and Cairo Time is to Cairo. It's not about sex and the city but love and loving the city.
Opens Fri June 17 at AMC Loews Alderwood Mall 16.