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Original Title:
Shinbu sueob

South Korea 2004

Romance, Comedy

Heo In-mu

Kwon Sang-woo
Ha Ji-won
Kim In-kwon
Kim In-mun
Seon-hwa Kim
Jeon Hye Jin
Kim Hye-na
Jo Jae-hyeon

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Love so Divine

Story: Kyu-sik (Kwon Sang-woo) and his friend Seon-dal (Kim In-kwon) study to become a priest. While Kyu-sik takes this very seriously, his friend likes to hang out at parties. It's also his fault that Kyu-sik trips at the mess and breaks a calix which was sanctified by the pope himself. As a punishment Kyu-sik and Seon-dal have to serve at a church in the country under custodianship of father Nam (Kim In-mun) and try to prepare for their ordination.
Kyu-sik one day meets totally drunk Bong-hee (Ha Ji-won) in a church, who immediately falls on the future priest which for the now entering nun looks like the two are kissing.
It turns out that Bong-hee is the niece of father Nam and just came back from America to visit her boyfriend. Kyu-sik is lucky, because there is no further punishment for his "behaviour".
However, Bong-hee gets dumped by her boyfriend and now works at the church to earn some money in order to buy a ticket and get back to America. Naturally, Kyu-sik oftentimes clashes with Bong-hee. Kyu-sik makes it his business to guide this lost sheep back to the right path. Yet, when father Nam tells him that he has to convince Bong-hee to get baptized he gets into trouble, because Bong-hee and her impiety is not an easy case to take on.

Review: Well, what is there to expect from just another rom-com? Somehow, one looks like the other more and more every year and to keep track of all the "clones" proves to be rather difficult. It's obvious from the beginning that the two lovers will eventually become a couple and so the question remains: Why should you watch that kind of flick? Maybe you had a bad day and you want to get into good mood without having to use too much brains. Then, this kind of movie is just what you were looking for, natch.
Interestingly enough "Love so Divine" can stay in your head for quite a while. Most of the time the film is composed like so many other rom-coms, yet the charismatic actors and the unusual setting of the story can positively surprise you. Maybe it's just that my expectations weren't that high, but ultimately "Love so Divine" really isn't that bad...

Kyu-sik is working on becoming a priest and is fully in the service of god. His faith is put to an acid test, when he meets cheeky disbeliever Bong-hee. From now on he takes it as his mission to convert her to Christianity and to guide her to god. Of course, this is just an excuse for his subconscious wish to get to know this young woman a little better. The audience knows that he has feelings for Bong-hee before he does. Bong-hee's repelling and impudent character is just a means to an end to let them clash on several occasions. They are each other a pain in the neck, make life difficult for each other and get closer doing so. What else did you expect... The important question here is not if but how. At least for those who aren't new to the Korean rom-com genre.

To shift the plot into a church is a good choice, but your expactations shouldn't be too high. The main atmosphere is cheerful and colourful, religion is only a marginalized motif. Naturally, our protagonist has to decide between god or his beloved one at the end. Luckily, director Heo In-mu strikes a balance. One deals with the topic in a relatively serious way without becoming too melodramatic. Unfortunately, there are no surprises to be found here. At the end everyhing comes together as it is supposed to and that's it.
The ending actually isn't that cheesy. There is no bad Hollywood-like kissing scene, the emotions are conveyed believeable and it's somehow even a pity that we are pulled out of the movie so suddenly.

Ha Ji-won (for many people the reason why they watch Korean romantic comedies in the first place) looks as gorgeous as ever, yet also shows some of her acting skills. However, her character remains a bit too stereotypical, even if her portrayel is different from let's say Jeon Ji-hyun's from "My Sassy Girl". Especially, in the more emotional scenes she can convince us, but apart from that she in fact is just the sassy girl who makes the protagonist's life a living, yet amusing hell.
Kwon Sang-woo ("My Tutor Friend", "Running Wild") plays the male lead. He is astonishingly convincing as the priest in training, but eventually he has to fall for Bong-hee because of her irresistible charm. The chemistry between him and Ha Ji-won is just right and so it's just a shame that one oftentimes has the feeling that the talent of these two actors is somehow wasted in movies like these.

"Love so Divine" is more a romantic movie than a comedy. Nevertheless, at some points there are some pretty good and subtle working jokes, which is also because of the efforts of Kim In-kwon's funny supporting role.
The directing is solid, there are some great landscape shots, the setting of the little church is really nice to watch and so there is nothing to criticize concerning the technical efforts.
As already said the film sticks to old formulas. This is really apparent, so you shouldn't be all too surprised when you see the main protagonist carrying his future girlfriend piggyback-style. At least it didn't rain at that time. This would have put a lid on it...
Anyway, the movie remains predictable in every way, which is not really bothering, because one doesn't expect it not to be. However, there is one unpardonable cheesy, embarrassing and painful singing scene in a church. The ones responsible for this deserve to be smacked right into the face! Well, there is also a good thing about it: At least now we know that Ha Ji-won actually sings quite well!

"Love so Divine" is entertaining. The path to the inevitable Happy End is paved with cheerful and blithe romantic comedy stuff and the setting as well as the motif of religion give it a nice alternation. Two excellent actors and the fact that the movie can remain in your head for a while (even if not for too long) make me turn a blind eye concerning several familiar and genre-typical flaws. If you are looking for a good romantic comedy, which is made according to a proven formula, then this is your tasty cup of tea.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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