Du-sang is obsessed with his first love, Saem. He has long since lost contact with her, but he still can’t erase her memory. Now that he is in his early twenties he can think of nothing else but trying to find her. Hearing that she might be attending university in Seoul, he goes up to the city and moves into his friend’s rented room.
But there is a complication: an automobile accident has left Du-sang with prosopagnosia. Also called “face blindness,” this is a condition in which patients can no longer recognize faces – even though other aspects of their visual recognition are unaffected. In one sense he can lead a completely normal life, but it makes his goal of locating Saem particularly challenging. In the coming days he will meet three women, each of whom will relate to him (or try to take advantage of him) in different ways. But to his eyes, all of them look like Saem.
This low-budget comedy is a lot more complicated than it looks at first glance. Debut director Hwang Kyu-il playfully mixes romantic comedy clichés and situational comedy to make an entertaining, funny and at times bittersweet movie. Despite his slightly obsessive fixation on Saem, Du-sang is a likeable character who easily captures the audience’s sympathies. But as the story progresses and he gets further entangled with the three mysterious women, it becomes more and more unclear what is really happening. Is one of them actually Saem? Are the three women really who they say they are? Is someone playing a joke on Du-sang, or is the film playing a joke on us?
At the center of all this mystery and confusion is the fact that all three of the women are played by the same actress, Ryu Abel (Our Love Story). Showing great range and comic timing, Ryu lights up the screen in whatever guise she happens to be adopting. Main actor Choi Jun-young too is also drawing attention as an up-and-coming talent. His portrayal of Du-sang is heartfelt, natural and precise.
Making good use of a classical piano score, director Hwang overcomes his limited budget and effectively captures his main character’s confused state of mind. The idea of introducing prosopagnosia into the story is also weirdly appropriate. One might say that being young, naïve and in love is a bit like having face blindness, because your fantasies prevent you from seeing people as they truly are. It’s not just in the visual sense that Du-sang can look into a young woman’s face, and not really understand what he’s looking at.