When Romance Meets Destiny
Kim Joo-Hyuk (Mr. Handy, “Lovers in Prague”), Bong Tae-Gyu (Family Ties, See You After School), Lee Yo-Won (“Fashion 70s”, Take Care of My Cat), Kim Ah-Joong (“Emperor of the Sea”), Jeong Kyeong-Ho (My Scary Girl, “I’m Sorry, I Love You”)
Directed by: Kim Hyeon-Seok
Written by: Kim Hyeon-Seok (JSA)
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Runtime: 104 min.
Is meeting that special someone a question of fate, or is it something within our control? Often times, we view romance as a mystery governed by destiny, or as only a matter of lucky coincidences. And then there are those ‘happy accidents’ of fate that turn us in a different direction than we’d ever have expected. “When Romance Meets Destiny” explores this motif in the story of a pair of ordinary brothers and their romantic struggles.
Following a brief encounter with a pretty young woman, older brother Kwang-Shik muses aloud to his dong-saeng Kwang-Tae about the connection between love and fate:
KS: What if heaven decides that two people are supposed to be together? But those two people don’t know that. So that woman and I could be destined by heaven to be together, but by accident of fate this is the first and last time we meet. Seeing that, wouldn’t God be frustrated? He would think, I made those two for each other, but they are walking away like idiots. Then I wish he would give some kind of signal…I wish a whistle would sound and everything would stop. KT: Then she isn’t meant for you. I didn’t hear anything. KS: (pause) I was talking hypothetically.
Kwang-Shik and Kwang-Tae operate adjoining shops — a photo studio and a video store — live together and get into each other’s love lives, but are as different as night and day. Nice-guy older brother Kwang-Shik has always been too shy to even give the girl he likes flowers, let alone ask her out. As a result he’s spent seven years pining for ‘the one who got away’. Fate gives him a second chance with the girl of his dreams when he meets up with her again at the wedding of a mutual friend. Will he grab this opportunity or is it his destiny to make the same mistakes over and over?
At the other end of the spectrum, Kwang-Tae and his friends’ follow the motto that ‘you ought to break up with a woman before the 12th time you’ve slept together’. Apparently this magic number is the point where guys become bored and girls too attached, so end it before it gets messy. One day he enters a marathon, though he’s clearly never run more than a few blocks in his entire life. Less than a mile in, he proceeds to try and hit on a girl, fails, but then runs into her again at a later date and starts a physical relationship with her. Will they make past their twelfth date? Or will the ‘L’ word accidentally slip out of his mouth?
“When Romance Meets Destiny” is a cute, quirky film that scores a win mainly because of the clever dialogue and the performances of the two main leads. As an actor ,Bong Tae-Gyu frequently takes on the role of really geeky characters (as in “Conduct Zero”) and he gives a similar performance here. He portrays Kwang-Tae as just your neighborhood video store guy with a good heart but a big ego (and mouth!). In almost every movie he’s appeared in thus far, from “Singles” to “Mr. Handy”, Kim Joo-Hyuk has been extremely likable. He puts in another great performance here as Kwang-Shik, a guy who’s maybe just a little too nice for his own good, and who can’t seem to do anything right when it comes to his love life. Can such a shy and self-sacrificing person ever have the guts to seize some happiness for himself?
The dialogue and situations the brothers find themselves in are also very charming. When Kwang-Tae and his friends sit around discussing their dating philosophy, he mentions that keeping track of how many times you’ve slept with a girl is a problem after about number three. One of them has it all figured out: when you make it with a new chick, get a new frequent buyer card at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (unlike Starbucks, they have 12 punches as opposed to 10!). Simply have it stamped every time. This way, you can break up cleanly and get a free cup of coffee at the same time!
Later, Kwang-Shik uses a metaphor about the foods he likes to illustrate to his brother a problem he’s having with a girl.
KS: You know I like shrimp, right? And I really like friend rice, too. But I can’t stand shrimp fried rice at all. Shrimp is good as shrimp. And fried rice is good as fried rice. But shrimp fried rice is a tragic mix. KT: Hey man, I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Kwang-Tae’s shallow relationship with the marathon runner is quite funny and works well as comic relief throughout, but Kwang-Shik’s struggles are more compelling. Maybe because he’s more mature, or more pathetic, or even just too much of a romantic, and you can’t help but sympathise with him. There’s nothing extraordinary about the characters. They could be you or me or anyone we know, and perhaps therein lies much of the attraction of the film. You can’t help but like them, laugh with them, and hope the best for them. After all, which of us hasn’t been stupid in the face of love?
*edited by Aziraphale