Friday, June 23, 2006

Review of When Romance Meets Destiny

KRMDB info

When Romance Meets Destiny has the look and feel of romantic dramas/comedies of a bygone era... Ok, 'bygone era' might be an exaggeration, since the age of up-and-coming Korean cinema that just preceded Korean wave and the miainstreaming of Korean film was less than a decade ago.

Unfortunately Korean film has followed the trend towards greater tolerance of contemporary (i.e. unchaste) sexual mores, if not outright approval.

Kwang-shik is the older brother, shy and quiet. He has not forgotten his crush from his university days, Ko Yoon-kyung, and actually meets her again at the wedding of a classmate, for which he is serving as the photographer. This classmate is the same guy who beat Kwang-shik to making a 'confession' to Yoon-kyung first; hence he ended up with Yoon-kyung, not Kwangshik. While it is obvious that Kwangshik has liked Yoon-kyung for a very long time, as the movie progresses we become aware that the attraction was mutual.

Kwang-tae is the younger brother who has a group of rather dissolute friends interested only in drinking and having casual sex with women and getting rid of them when they tire of them. He and his friends have an arrangement--they will use their coffee cards as a means of knowing when to drop the woman with whom they are having sex. Each time they have sex with the woman, they will get a coffee and a card stamp. When the card has been filled up with 8 stamps (and there is a reward of a free coffee), they'll 'break-up' with the woman. Unfortunately, one of his friends also works for Kwang-shik (who runs a photography business), and he ends up dating Yoon-kyung after Kwang-tae misdelivers Koon-kyung's Valentine's gift to him instead of Kwang-shik (for whom the present was actually intended, as Yoon-kyung actually has feelings towards him).

So Kwang-shik's 'hopes' are frustrated because of Kwang-tae's drunken mistake. Of course I can sympathize with a man like that, who is pusillanimous and unable to take the intiative when it comes to chasing the woman he is interested in. This is a lesson that Kwang-shik has to learn, and the movie does an ok job with it, even if he does not end up with Yoon-kyung. (And yes I was thinking it would be nice if they ended up together at the end; after all the movie poster gave that impression.)

However, it is clear from the fact that Kwang-tae's friend gets a stamp that he has had relations with Yoon-kyung. Are we expected to believe that this woman, who is attracted to Kwang-shik, would have sex so easily with someone else? Perhaps it was also implied in her previous relationship with Kwang-shik's classmate. It is understandable that she would marry someone else, because she got tired of waiting for Kwang-shik. But to engage in fornication? Where exactly is the character's sense of self-worth? The film would have done better to investigate this aspect of a woman's psychology in a realistic manner, but it couldn't, since it was focused on the two brothers.

Then there is the possible audacity of the script-writer to bring God into the story -- it affirms that God brings people together, and that if He really wants them to be together, it will happen, and He will give clear signs of this. I agree with the point that God brings people together, but the story blurs the distinction between God's absolute will and His permissive will. While God may intend for two people to meet and get married, they themselves can frustrate this, and He will not take away human freedom. If Kwang-shik is supposed to end up with the other woman, and the film even arranges their fortuitous meeting, should the same be said also for Yoon-kyung and her husband? Or does God only favor certain people?

Kwang-tae the dog does meet a woman during a marathon; he exemplifies the lifestyle of casual sex. While she enjoys watching movies and binding books, he's only there for the physical benefits. Of course, she eventually gets tired of this and breaks up with him. Kwang-tae realizes how jealous he is that she might be sleeping with someone else, and how much he misses her, and he begins watching her favorite movies. He meets up with her again, at the end of the movie, after a period of time, and it seems that this time, things will go right.

Now is one expected to believe that emotional dependence and physical attraction are the same as virtuous love? Or that someone who has Kwang-tae's vices will turn into a 'good guy' who knows what commitment and marriage are about? Or is Kwang-tae merely going to stumble along the second time around, shacking up with his girlfriend but not marrying her until he feels 'comfortable' or 'ready'? I didn't buy it when it happened in Untold Scandal (the Korean version of Dangerous Liasons); I didn't buy it this time around.

In the end, it seems like fornication is a morally neutral act, and that repeated acts have no consequences on character, and by implication, on the relationship. While the movie may be clear that Kwang-tae, before his 'conversion,' didn't deserve to be in a relationship since he was using women for sex, it seems to be affirming that sex outside of marriage is ok, so long as 'true love' exists between the two people. I'm just tired of this line, whether it be in an online forum (like Soompi) or in real life. That people think this is an acceptable philosophy of life only shows how lost society has become.

One does get the impression that Yoon-kyung doesn't really 'love' her husband, or that she isn't really 'happy' with the outcome. So when will we get a movie with a female protagonistic venting about how unfair life is because she's done what she can to satisfy the wishes of a man, and yet cannot hold on to one, even though she herself made poor decisions and is partly to blame?

Even if the movie retained the conclusion to the Kwang-shi/Yoong-kyung story, it could have been good--but instead we have a disappointing piece that supports contemporary sexual practices and thinking about relationships.

Lee Yo-won, who plays Ko Yoon-kyung, is interesting; forgotten she was in Surprise Party, she is not as popular as other actresses.

For the most part, Korean TV dramas have been more conservative, though there are plots involving infidelity and premarital sex--but as far as I know nothing that comes close to condoning a hedonistic lifestyle.

A reminder to myself to get the bibliographical information from this thread.

No comments: