Killing Romance


Killing Romance 

킬링로맨스 (Killing Romance)

South Korea, 2023, 106’, Korean
Directed by: Lee Won-suk
Screenplay: Park Jung-yae
Photography (color): Kang Min-woo
Editing: Jung Ji-eun
Production Design: Shin Yu-jin
Music: Dalpalan
Producers: Kim Sung-hoon, Kim Myung-jin, Mo Il-young
Cast: Lee Ha-nee (Hwang Yeo-rae), Lee Sun-kyun (Jonathan Na), Gong Myoung (Bum-woo), Bae Yu-ram (Young-chan), Andrew Bishop (Bob)

Date of First Release in Territory:  April 14th, 2023


Yeo-rae is a top model and star who has taken South Korea by storm. But she learns that fame is a fickle thing, after her awkward performance and poor pronunciation in a big-budget space movie turns her into a laughingstock. Exhausted and distraught, she decides to leave Korea and take a vacation to Qualla, a small Pacific island nation. Her trip starts off badly, but then she meets global real estate developer Jonathan Na (“jon-na”, incidentally, is a somewhat rude expression in Korean), who saves her from a pack of thieves, falls in love with her and proposes marriage.
Cut to seven years later, when the couple flies to spend some time in Korea. Jonathan, it turns out, is not the Prince Charming he once seemed to be. Yeo-rae is desperately unhappy and constantly pinned under Jonathan’s watchful eye. She also learns the depth of his cruelty and violence towards anyone who crosses him. Yet a window of opportunity opens when she discovers that her next-door neighbor Bum-woo, a young man studying to re-take the university entrance exam, is one of her biggest fans. Together they hatch various schemes to enable Yeo-rae to live a happy life – all of which involve killing Jonathan. 
The two paragraphs above may capture something of the setup and basic plot of Killing Romance, but there is a lot more to this movie than what you can cover in a plot description. Tongue-in-cheek narration by a folksy American grandmother, pastel visuals, Jonathan’s pompous melange of Korean and English, his twin housekeepers whom he refers to as “Susans”, Bum-soo’s random ability to communicate with animals, song and dance used as a means of psychological warfare, and two very angry ostriches are just a sampling of the wholly unexpected flourishes that this film unveils in just under two hours. If one had to describe it by referencing other movies, one might call it a cross between Memories of Matsuko and the films of Wes Anderson. Or you might just say that this is the work of director Lee Won-suk, who after How to Use Guys with Secret Tips and The Royal Tailor has found a project where his unique sense of humor can be fully unleashed. 
For a movie as outlandish as this one to work, it needs to be directed with extreme precision, but it also requires a total commitment from the cast. In that sense, Lee Ha-nee (Phantom)’s performance as Yeo-rae is quite something to behold. She throws herself completely into this role, holding nothing back, but she too is extremely precise in how she executes it. There’s not a gesture she makes in the entire film that feels the least bit sloppy or loose, and I don’t believe this film could have worked without her. That being said, the rest of the cast is also outstanding. In his portrayal of Jonathan, Lee Sun-kyun (Parasite) blends funny and obnoxious into a truly memorable cocktail, while Gong Myoung’s Bum-woo is so likeable and transparent we can’t help but cheer him on. Among the wide cast of supporting characters, Andrew Bishop as Bob deserves a special shout out, but really all of them are a joy to watch on screen. 
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film that screams “cult movie” like Killing Romance. Some viewers are going to be completely turned off by it, but if you let the film under your skin, it’s hard to stop thinking about it. And it’s even more fun on the second (or third?) viewing than it is on the first. For sure, this movie will have its share of hardcore fans, but we’ll have to wait and see if the mainstream audience in South Korea gives it a chance.


Lee Won-suk

In 1984 at the age of 10, Lee Won-suk emigrated to the US. He received a degree in advertising from Boston University in 1996. He subsequently attended the American Film Institute to study directing, before returning to Korea. His short film Tree screened at numerous festivals. His feature debut How to Use Guys with Secret Tips opened in 2013 and won the Audience Award at the 15th Far East Film Festival. His second feature, The Royal Tailor also screened at FEFF. He subsequently directed the short film Lala Land (2017) as part of a reality TV program about filmmaking. Killing Romance is his third feature.


2013 – How to Use Guys with Secret Tips
2014 – The Royal Tailor
2023 – Killing Romance

Darcy Paquet
Film director: LEE Won-suk
Year:  2023
Running time: 107'
Country: South Korea
27/04 - 7:30
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
27-04-2023 19:30 27-04-2023 21:27Europe/Rome Killing Romance Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine