2 September 2005 | BrianThibodeau
A frank, funny look at an under-appreciated Korean demographic
A sparkling, incisive, progressive-minded comedy-drama that leaves much of this genre looking exactly like the disguised condoning of tradition it really is. One can only begin to imagine how entrenched thinkers in Korean society would react to this honest, observant, level-headed look at four late-twenty-somethings for whom life provides obstacles in both career and love that neither regressive-collective cultural thinking nor parents - who barely figure into the plot - can solve. Nan (Chang Jin-young), is a wide-eyed fashion industry drone busted down to Chilli's manager by her sexist middle manager. The shift stings, but also points out realities she's not entirely uncomfortable with. Into her world comes Seo- hoon (Kim Ju-hyeok) a decent-fella securities trader who clearly wants to pursue a relationship despite her reservations. Meanwhile, her best friend Dong Mi (Uhm Jeong-hwa), a web company employee out of work thanks to her own sexist superior, shares a flat with old pal Joon (Lee Beom-soo, in a 180 degree turn from his creepy role in OH! Brothers), who's as unsuccessful at removing himself from bad relationships as she is successful at bringing home a long string of bad boyfriends. That both of these couples should end up together is a given. That the film provides no easy resolutions yet plenty of optimism for these truly modern Korean women is the year's most pleasant K-cinema surprise: it allows the protagonists an honesty and resolve in deciding their own fates that many recent K- comedies seem hell-bent on denying similar characters. Here, marriage to a handsome man and financial success - long the expectations of many young Korean women - are not depicted as an absolute guarantee of security and/or happiness, and turning 30 without being defined is hardly the end of the world, particularly for Korean women who remain adaptable to the changes happening around them, rather than being pressured to fit a mold as their ancestors were. Fine acting across the board, anchored by Chang's captivating, believable performance, raises this far above the low-brow antics too often seen in these kinds of films (CRAZY FIRST LOVE immediately comes to mind). Almost needless to say, but the production design and cinematography are sterling, with warm and inviting environments (including an absolutely gorgeous Seoul) a veritable extension of the optimism with which these characters ultimately face their uncertain future. Must-see contemporary Korean cinema, and easily one against which all similar Korean romantic films should be measured. 10.