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Original Title:
Yeonae soseol

South Korea 2002

Drama, Romance

Lee Han

Cha Tae-hyun
Lee Eun-joo
Son Ye-jin
Moon Geung-yeong
Kim Nam-jin
Sa Kang
Sin Seung-hwan
Choi Jeong-woo
Yoo Hyeong-kwan
Kim Hee-ryeong
Park Jae-woong
Kwak Jeong-wook
Seo Yoon-ah
Son Yeong-soon
Jeon Hee-joo
Kim Hee-ra
Han Bo-bae
Choi Seong-min
Park Tae-kyeong

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Lover's Concerto

Story: Ji-hwan (Cha Tae-hyun) thinks about the time when he was still studying. At that time, when he was working part-time at a Café, the two girls Soo-in (Son Ye-jin) and Kyung-hee (Lee Eun-joo) entered the shop one day. Ji-hwan head over heels fell in love with Soo-in and approached her. However, the whole situation became a bit embarassing for him, which is why his loved one thought of him as being somewhat strange. Kyung-hee on the other hand was amused by his courage. After Ji-hwan had apologized for his behavior, the three eventually became friends. At first it was pretty obvious that Ji-hwan was in love with Soo-in and that Kyung-hee loved Ji-hwan, but the closer the three got to each other the more the frontiers became blurry and at last Ji-hwan learnt to appreciate the more energetic and vivacious ways of Kyung-hee. However, one thing the two were quite aware of is the fact that one of them has to be the loser in this love triangle. Certain circumstances made the two end their friendship with Ji-hwan. The true reason for this decision, however, was that Soo-in was terminally ill...

Review: When it comes to romantic dramas you oftentimes get the feeling: When you know one of them, you know them all. There are only few exceptions that can score with something special about them, but "Lover's Concerto" doesn't fall into this category. Interestingly enough, this doesn't change the fact that the film is actually entertaining after all, will make those cry who are prone to tears, and everyone else it will just give a pleasent, bittersweet evening. That this is the case is clearly thanks to technical realization from director Lee Han, who later on should make movies like "Almost Love" or "My Love", and therefore is one of the few no-one-time-directors of Korea, and also thanks to an impressive cast consisting of several stars, even though most of them were rather nameless faces at that time. But Cha Tae-hyun was already very in demand after his success in "My Sassy Girl" and therefore stands as the actual leading force of the movie. If you can overlook a certain predictability concerning the plot you will get a nice drama with "Lover's Concerto".

Since the story is told from the view of Ji-hwan and from a perspective five years in the future, we already know, because of his present life circumstances, that his love story with the two girls doesn't lead to a happy end, at least not for him, as he doesn't have any contact to them in the future anymore. Therefore, all his beautiful memories are also imbued with a certain sadness, since his story is that of two friends he seems to have lost. But despite this fact, the first half of the movie is more than anything else so compelling because of its lighthearted character and the colorful pictures. Nonetheless, as already stated, we know from the very beginning that we shouldn't expect a happy end, especially not since we get to understand that Soo-in is ill. Therefore, in contrast to many other romantic dramas, we can't blame "Lover's Concerto" that it would take a complete U-turn concerning its main mood halfway through. This sort of continuity is something you learn to appreciate when watching a lot of Korean movies.

Still, this doesn't change the fact that some revelations presented in Lee Han's drama are at best feeling artificial. Why a certain twist in respect to some names, resp. Kyung-hee, had to find their way into the movie remains a mystery for me. It just seems as if the filmmakers wanted to ensure that the audience sheds some tears no matter what. This is also tried to achieve by implementing some cheesy scenes. Those scenes, in which the director through his protagonists acknowledges that he is aware of the cheesiness of the scenes, work out surprisingly well, yet there are some scenes which undoubtfully aim at forcing out some emotions of the viewer, which simply fail to find its mark and sometimes even might evoke some eye-rolling on the part of the viewer.
Furthermore, it's not really evident what purpose the little side-story around Moon Geun-yeong ("A Tale of Two Sisters", "Innocent Steps") serves. Moreover, some of the characters like Ji-hwan's friend who somewhere throughout the movie marries seem half baked and you actually have to wonder why the scriptwriters even put them into their script.

Praiseworthy is the fact that there are only very few hospital scenes and even they don't look as if having been shot in a real hospital. In general, the all-apparent schmaltz-factor is of the sort "absolutely tolerable". This is mainly thanks to the characters, who together create a fitting chemistry on screen. Cha Tae-hyun is the lucky guy who hits the jackpot and gets even two girlfriends. One of them is played by Son Ye-jin ("A Moment to Remember", "Open City") in a very introverted and innocent fashion, while the other one embodied by Lee Eun-joo ("Bungee Jumping of their own", "The Scarlett Letter") is the more merry and upbeat girl of the two. Her portrayal is the most profound and interesting one, which is why we are happy to see when Ji-hwan's interest somewhen throughout the movie shifts from Soo-in to Kyung-hee, even though it's never really easy to make out who's actually in love with whom. The two female friends aren't willing to see their friendship getting destroyed by a love triangle, but nonetheless or maybe just because of that there is some serious emotional pain involved in the situation.

It's entertaining and oftentimes also sad to watch the relationships between the characters unfold, however, sometimes we also get the feeling that the movie isn't going anywhere. We accompany the three on their numerous "dates", but seldomly the story makes any progress. The polished and colorful pictures can sometimes make up for that, though. Nevertheless, somehow the drama isn't as affecting as it could have been possible. Maybe to blame for that is the somewhat bumpy final spurt of the movie or the fact that we are absolutely aware of how things will end, eventually. A certain predictability is therefore the biggest downside of "Lover's Concerto", but the team of three charming individuals can win us over with their good portrayals instantly and sometimes they can also affect us. A little bit more character elaboration would have been nice and eventually the film would have been more affecting. Yet, even as it is "Lover's Concerto" stands as a good genre entry.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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