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  Lover's Concerto  

Son Ye-Jin, Cha Tae-Hyun and Lee Eun-Joo in Lover's Concerto.
Year: 2002  
Director: Lee Han  
Cast: Cha Tae-Hyun, Lee Eun-Joo, Son Ye-Jin, Moon Geun-Young  
The Skinny: The appropriately cast actors carry this mostly-pleasing romantic drama. There are one too many cloying details and the film is terribly self-indulgent, but on the whole this is suitably winning mush.  
by Kozo:

     Lover's Concerto has the unenviable position of being actor Cha Tae-Hyun's follow-up film to the enormously popular My Sassy Girl. A certifiable Korean blockbuster, My Sassy Girl also won worldwide fan acclaim and an upcoming Hollywood remake. The same is not true for Lover's Concerto, which has reportedly zero Hollywood suits lining up for remake rights. It isn't hard to fathom why; the film is a reasonably entertaining romantic drama, but it really offers nothing terribly new to its treacly genre.
     Cha stars as Ji-Hwan, a young man who five years ago entered into a close friendship with not one, but two comely young things. One is Soo-In (Son Ye-Jin), who has long black hair, and is quiet and reserved. Kyung-Hee (Lee Eun-Joo) is Soo-In's polar opposite: energetic, sometimes rude, and infinitely more cheery than Soo-In. However, Ji-Hwan is smitten by Soo-In and declares his love immediately. The direct approach doesn't get the desired response (Kyung-Hee is amused, and Soo-In creeped out), but thanks to the timely use of a clock and some sappy metaphor, Ji-Hwan gets his chance. He turns back the hands of the clock and asks the girls to forget what just happened. "If we meet again," he says, "Let's meet as friends."
     Well, he gets his shot. The girls show up at his workplace one day, and the three become inseparable pals. Slowly but surely, the three "fall in love", though the exact pairing off is hard to ascertain. Their closeness is certainly touching, and Ji-Hwan seems to respect both women equally, but who will be left out? And how will the "other girl" feel? And what the heck is Ji-Hwan doing now without either of them? It's a dilemma worthy of a ninety minute movie.
     Since the film is told from a murky point five years hence, the threesome's cloyingly touching courtship has a decidedly bittersweet edge. The flashback obviously doesn't end happily ever after, and midway through, the film settles firmly into melodrama. To borrow a phrase from many a Hong Kong film review, IT ALL GOES TO HELL. The deepening of their relationships leads to the inevitable tension in their friendship, but there's a bigger problem: Soo-In has a terminal disease, which rears its ugly head long before the film concludes. In the end, the film's biggest mystery is what exactly happened to make things the way they are. And now, five years later, can Ji-Hwan somehow repair things?
     The film possesses some minor narrative surprises which may or may work for you. It all depends on how much you expect narrative surprises, which are actually quite common in Korean romances. Many will likely be affected, but others may find it annoying as the twists seem more manufactured than anything else. The viewer gets pulled along in whatever direction by virtue of misinformation; that hardly seems like the stuff of fine filmmaking. Twists are great for mysteries. Lover's Concerto is not a mystery.
     Furthermore, there are lots of manufactured moments, like the reciting of sappy movie lines or how the characters fondly touch each other's faces. It's supposed to be touching, but when it happens for the tenth time, it seems more than a little syrupy. Unfortunately, this preponderance of drippy melodrama is not offset by the genuinely surprising character and humor of My Sassy Girl, or even the utter lightness of Surprise Party. This is supposed to be heavy stuff. Heck, it is heavy stuff. It's just rather pedestrian and uninspired.
     At the same time, director Lee Han handles the script well. The situations are certainly primed for tears, and the actors are winning enough to make us care. Lee Eun-Joo delivers a charismatic performance as Kyung-Hee, and displays a remarkable range. Cha Tae-Hyun is likable and affecting as Ji-Hwan, and Son Ye-Jin fits her character extremely well. The overused plot may not seem new, but the dead-on casting and affecting performances work wonders. The actors make up for the fact that the film leans too heavily on its tragic storyline, and uses devices instead of characters to truly affect us. This is already a more-than-adequate romantic drama, but had the film possessed a more inspired story, it could have been truly exceptional. (Kozo 2003)


DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen