It's valentines day today! What an apt day to review two Korean rom-com films!
I'm going to pretend this was planned but actually I just happened to watch them last night and had completely forgotten today was valentines. I watched 'Petty Romance' written and directed by Kim Jung-hoon and then 'Love Fiction' directed by Jeon Gyesoo. The reason I ended up watching them both in one night was because I had been looking at the film list for this month's screenings at the Korean cultural office in Sydney. They have free screenings which is pretty cool but I can't go to any at the moment as I'm in Canberra. So instead I decided to watch them by myself online and be sad and make a lasagne for one.
They both had quite similar story arcs actually: 'Petty Romance' was about a sex columnist and a manga artist teaming up and using each other for their art (before falling in love) and 'Love fiction' was about a writer and a photographer who begin dating and subsequently use each other for their art. Both used the imaginary world of the written work by the characters to create conflicts within and reflect the story going on in their relationships in the real world. Both had two characters with very different personalities fall in love and subseqently go through many conflicts.
Of the two, I enjoyed 'Petty Romance' better, simply because the characters were a little more likeable. Although the female lead, Hee-jin, in 'Love Fiction' is awesome (she's a fairly new age feminist-y, laid back woman the likes of which I haven't seen before in Korean cinema) the male lead was often hard to like (maybe because of how great Hee-jin was, it was hard to take his side in their conflicts). Petty Romance dealt really frankly with sex in a way I haven't really seen much before in other rom-coms (korean or otherwise).
What I loved about both films and most korean romance films in general is that they really build up the conflict between the characters in a believable way so that for most of the film, you aren't actually sure they would make such a good couple. In most American, English and Australian romances I've seen it is often really easy to see where the story will lead to two characters becoming a couple. I find that in Korean films though, it's not just a case of miscommunication which leads to the two leads falling out ('Pride and Prejudice' is the classic example of this in western romances) but real anger and dislike for one another. The most obvious example of this is a scene in 'Petty Romance' where the male lead actually spits into the cup of coffee he is making for the female lead. I really can't imagine this happening in hollywood rom-coms that's for sure.
Whilst, 'Petty Romance' was the more entertaining, I felt that 'Love Fiction' had a more original take on the love story. It is one of the only romance films I've seen which really accurately depicts the progression of a love story beyond the honey moon stage to the period when a couple stops finding each other mysterious or charming.
I'd recommend both but if you're looking for a lighter film see 'Petty Romance' and if you're looking for a deeper one then 'Love Fiction' is the way to go.