"While a few scenes are genuinely touching, the movie feels way too similar to those horrible Hollywood romances that rely on absolutely absurd displays of emotions."
Lover's Concerto (2002)
AKA: Romance Guy, Love Novel
Director: Lee Han
Producer: Han Seong-Gu
Writer: Lee Han
Cast: Cha Tae-Hyeon, Lee Eun-Ju, Son Ye-Jin, Park Yong-Wu, Sa Gang, Mun Geun-Yeong, Kim Nam-Jin, Shin Seung-Hwan
Running Time: 105 min.
Plot: A young man between two women whose life is pressured by a serious illness that they manage to hide. When the man writes a love letter to one of them, their feelings for each other lead to unexpected turns. As a model to sublime the refusal by a friend this movie reveals not only the power of love letters but also the chance to really become one with a beloved person.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
MLINDBER'S REVIEW: Thanks to My Sassy Girl, I've etched Jeon Ji-hyun into the book of "watch every movie she's in". When I heard about Lover's Concerto, a film staring the male protagonist of My Sassy Girl (Cha Tae-hyun), my interest was piqued. I really enjoyed him in My Sassy Girl and was excited about his next film. While enjoyable on many levels, I can't help but think that Lover's Concerto needed to go through a few more rewrites before being filmed.
The movie revolves around the relationship of a guy and two girls, and the heart-warming friendship that ensues from them. Ji-hwan (Cha Tae-hyun) plays a guy who works in a restaurant who has an affinity for photography. One day, while fiddling with his camera in the restaurant, he spots an attractive woman and instantly falls in love with her. He eventually makes a fool of himself and soon finds himself the close friend of the woman and her best friend. Over time, he begins to open up to them, eventually showing equal affection for the two girls (played by Son Ye-jin of Chihwaseon and Lee Eun-joo of Take Care of My Cat). He also begins to slowly fall in love with one of them. I thought the performances from all three were good, although it takes a while to think of Cha Tae-hyun as with any other girl.
The problem with the movie is that it sometimes tries too hard. While a few scenes are genuinely touching, the movie feels way too similar to those horrible Hollywood romances that rely on absolutely absurd displays of emotions. Cha Tae-hyun is perhaps a little too emphatic in his awkward ramblings, although the first time he encounters the girls is particularly well done.
The other major problem is the simple lack of coherency. The photography aspect of the main character didn't fit very well with his personality, nor his sense of being in the world. While not spoiling anything, I will say the film has a surprisingly complex plot (for what you think would be a simplistic and formulaic film), and it is complex in a very bad way. The two main actresses, who look nothing alike, manage to blend into the same character, and you soon forget who is who (thanks to some good old-fashioned switcheroo the script pulls).
At the end of the film, I didn't know who Ji-hwan was in love with, or what happened to the other girl. Things are said, concepts are thrown out, and absurd theories pushed around, but the movie expects way too much of the audience (it definitely feels like a film made for 12 year old girls). I also didn't like the inclusion of one of the girls being diseased. Christmas in August did it much better. There's also the inclusion of an "event" that made Ji-hwan leave the two girls, which is exposed through a flash forward and then a subsequent flash back. Nothing is ever fully revealed, and the viewer is left piecing together a conflicting and confusing story that should have been a lot more straightforward.
Overall, I thought the film needed a lot of work. Cha Tae-hyun is the best part of the movie, although he seems to have stuck to a very similar character to his one in My Sassy Girl. I did like the idea of a nerdy and unsure guy caught between two women who seemingly hold equal interest in him without being abrasive to each other, but the movie outweighs this interesting factor and finishes very problematically.
MLINDBER'S RATING: 5/10