t.l. Pazza storia d’amore
가장 보통의 연애 (Gajang botong-ui yeonae)
South Korea, 2019, 110’, Korean
Directed by: Kim Han-kyul
Script: Kim Han-kyul, Oh Hyo-jin
Photography (color): Son Won-ho
Editing: Shin Min-gyeong
Art Direction: Choi Jeong-eun
Music: Kim Tae-seong
Producers: Lee Eugene, Oh Hyo-jin
Cast: Kim Rae-won (Jae-hoon), Gong Hyo-jin (Sun-young), Kang Ki-young (Byeong-cheol), Jeong Woong-in (Kwan-soo), Jang So-yeon (Mi-young), Lee Chae-eun (Gyeong-eun)
Date of First Release in Territory: October 2nd, 2019
Premiere status: World Festival Premiere
There’s no question that there is a generational element to romance and dating, particularly in a fast-evolving society like South Korea. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, romantic comedies like Art Museum by the Zoo and My Sassy Girl captured young people’s hopes of finding love in the midst of a chaotic and confusing world. But two decades later, romance and relationships are being described in starker terms. The younger generation doesn’t have the time or money to engage in dating, we are often told. People claim this has resulted in a more transactional, transient nature to relationships in the current era. There is also a striking gender split among twentysomethings when it comes to politics, with women representing the most progressive sector of society, highly supportive of feminism, in contrast to a strong conservative turn among men of the same age. So how is a director to make a romantic comedy in times like these?
“This is not a simple romance movie” reads the remark that was voted to the top of Crazy Romance’s viewer comments section on Naver.com. This is certainly true; I’m not even sure whether to classify the film as a romantic comedy or not. But its departure from the norms of the romance genre didn’t do anything to limit its appeal. With close to 3 million tickets sold, it was one of the biggest hits of the fall season, and was widely praised by viewers for its sharp dialogue, and for nailing contemporary attitudes about relationships, work and sex.
The protagonists of this film are in their 30s, and thus located between the My Sassy Girl generation and those currently in their twenties. Jae-hoon, who works in an advertising firm, is dealing with his ex-girlfriend’s departure by drinking prodigious amounts of alcohol. This goes beyond the cute, drunken heartbreak we sometimes see in other romantic comedies – Jae-hoon has a drinking problem, and often wakes up with no memory of what he did the night before. One morning he looks at his phone and realizes that late the previous night he spent two hours talking to Sun-young, who joined his company just the day before. It’s an awkward situation, since he barely knows her but seems to have confessed entirely too much on the phone. Then on his way to work, he happens to come across Sun-young in the midst of breaking up with her boyfriend. In this way, they start working together knowing entirely too much about each other’s private lives.
Workplace culture, and the way personal life and work life often clash in awkward ways, is one of the themes of this film. Director Kim Han-kyul populates the office with a volatile mix of personalities, and the situations she presents accurately capture the range of stresses and frustrations that many young Koreans feel at work. After work hours, things only get more complicated, with Sun-young too showing a fondness for alcohol and a provocative streak.
Viewers should not expect the usual romantic trajectories in this film. Despite each of them being sensitive in different ways, Jae-hoon and Sun-young take what they need from each other, and don’t seem too bothered by the fact that their relationship isn’t clearly defined. Actors Kim Rae-won and Gong Hyo-jin are perfectly cast, particularly the latter, in that Gong’s cool independence has always been one of her most appealing qualities as an actress. In a similar way, this film shows little interest in defining itself in terms of genre. In the end, this disregard for convention is one of Crazy Romance’s strongest qualities.
Kim Han-kyul is a graduate of the film department at Konkuk University. Her short film A Perfect Sight (2009) won the Best Short Film award at the Blue Dragon Film Awards, and her next short Chatter won the Best Comedy prize at the 10th Mise-en-scenes Genre Film Festival. Crazy Romance is her feature film debut.
2019 – Crazy Romance