Marie In ‘My Name Is Loh Kiwan’ Explained: Why Is She Sad?

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When it comes to watching something romantic, of course, the two people involved are the most interesting part of a love story. Without one, the other doesn’t exist, or something dreamy like that. I suppose the most realistic part of My Name Is Loh Kiwan is the natural transactional nature of the central relationship. No, I don’t mean to demean romance and make it about give and take, but I think that’s the best way to describe Marie and Kiwan’s relationship. My Name Is Loh Kiwan is a film about a North Korean defector and his journey to realizing what his dream really is: freedom. But it’s also a love story between Kiwan, a disciplined and seasoned survivor, and Marie, a rebellious young woman with depression. Now, you might tell me this bit about depression is never mentioned in the film; it’s not really an overarching theme of the film, and I will agree. However, it’s a big part of how Kiwan and Marie’s relationship is formed. See, if Marie wasn’t at her lowest in life, she’d never even have glanced at Kiwan. Her first encounter with him is when he’s lying unconscious in a laundromat, and she has to stoop to find his wallet and steal from it. I suppose this could be a sort of description of the beginning of their relationship. Ironically, though, it’s Marie who is at her lowest. Yes, Kiwan is right there with her, but he has nothing to really lose, so I’d say that’s the upper hand. 

Marie is first introduced almost half an hour into the film. We first understand everything that Kiwan has been through and why he needs help, and then suddenly this lifesaver in the form of a thief appears. Marie is not your usual Korean film main lead. Especially not for a romance film. Everything about her would be considered “wrong” in Korean society. She doesn’t know how to hold her tongue when needed; she wears ripped clothes and dark broody makeup that makes her look like a racoon (I mean, I personally love it, but you know what I mean), and she’s got a temper. However, there’s one thing she has in common with other romantic leads: she’s got a terrible relationship with her father. On the other hand, she’s also caught in some strange mafia-like setting in the Belgian underworld, where she competes in target shooting competitions that get illegally bet on. This is a part of the film that I don’t quite understand. I’m sure Marie was looking for an outlet to release her pent-up anger, but this particular line of work seems very forced in this film. At least, she’s really good at the job and also looks fantastic in all-black outfits. 

Marie’s frustration with her father is because of her mother’s death. Her mother was euthanized without a word to her, and she found out much later, thinking her mother died of natural causes. If Marie had known, she would’ve at least tried to talk her mother out of it. I suppose Marie’s anger is not only directed towards her father; it’s, of course, her fate that she absolutely hates. She never really got to spend enough time with her loving mother, and then she basically left home to go do something completely against her parents’ beliefs. She then gets caught up in drugs. Additionally, her work ties her to the man who manages her; basically, he owns her, and she’s indebted to him for as long as he wants her to work. When Marie finds Kiwan loaded with cash, her first instinct is to sever ties with her illegal shooting job. However, she realizes that the wallet has a special meaning for Kiwan that relates to his mother, which is why she risks her life and goes back to the guy to take the wallet back. She’s willing to, for a complete stranger, risk her life simply because it’s the last memory of his mother. 

So, when I say theirs is a symbiotic relationship, I mean Kiwan needs help in Belgium and someone to push him to keep living, whereas Marie needs someone to bring her back on track and also…keep living. I suppose this is the perfect example of “they were each other’s lifelines.” I guess sparks first fly between Kiwan and Marie when he cooks a meal for her. Maybe it’s a reminder of the meal she missed with her mother, which makes her gobble it down like she hasn’t seen food in years. Or maybe it’s because she’s just hungry from the drugs and living on her own in whatever conditions. They really are the complete opposite of each other. Kiwan makes the most of what he has, while Marie ruins everything that she has. 

Their relationship really starts when Kiwan saves Marie from overdosing by taking her drugs instead, to the point where they almost kill him. It is, in a way, a form of blackmail, but it works because Marie secretly cares about the man. This is why she saves him from the police and finds him a job and all of the sappy stuff. Suddenly, seeing each other almost die, they can’t help but express their love for each other and make the most of their togetherness. I guess the common factor that brings them together is the loss of their respective mothers, but it’s also what makes them sensitive to each other’s situation in a way that nobody else could possibly understand. I didn’t make the rules for romance films. Kiwan is able to confess to Marie that his mother died because of his mistake. At this point, they’ve both got nothing to their name, but at least they can love each other wholeheartedly. 

It’s not an emotional movie if there isn’t a separation between the two leads. But, before I discuss the end of the film, I would also like to point out that Marie’s love for Kiwan could also be another form of rebellion. Here’s a man who is quite perfect; he cares for her and respects her, but he’d never be approved of by her father because he’s not deserving of her life. Why is that, you ask? Because of factors that he could never control (ah, that sounds like a Bollywood film, no?). At the end of the film, Marie admits to her father that when her mother’s sickness worsened, she wished for her to pass away in her sleep. Ironically, her mother’s wish for her was that she wouldn’t feel like her death was Marie’s fault; however, that’s exactly what Marie ended up thinking. She then comes to terms with her parents’ decision, because at this point she has to move away from her father and find a new life in a faraway country. My Name Is Loh Kiwan ends with the two lovers reuniting in a free land. I suppose that’s what they were both looking for the most—to be free and together. As a skeptic, I wonder if their relationship would last if there wasn’t a target on their back, but this is a romance film with a hopeful ending, so no, I guess they will be together till the end of time. 


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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
When not tending to her fashion small business, Ruchika or Ru spends the rest of her time enjoying some cinema and TV all by herself. She's got a penchant for all things Korean and lives in drama world for the most part.

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