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My Dear Desperado - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Nae Ggang-pae Gat-en Ae-in

South Korea 2010

Romance, Drama, Comedy, Crime

Kim Kwang-sik

Park Joong-hoon
Jeong Yu-mi
Park Won-sang
Jeong Woo-hyeok
Kwon Yul
Jeong In-gi

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My Dear Desperado

aka Gangster Lover

Story: Se-jin (Jeong Yu-mi) has just got her university degree when she moves from the countryside to Seoul where she gets a job at a small company. Unfortunately, the company goes bankrupt after only a few months and Se-jin is suddenly without a job. She moves into a small room and desperately looks for a job, but because she studied at a minor university outside Seoul and doesn't have much work experience she is constantly rejected by companies. To make things worse she has a gangster as a neighbor. Dong-cheol (Park Joong-hoon) somehow gets through life and hopes to get a bar from his boss soon since he went to jail for him for a few years. However, Dong-cheol still has to do insignificant jobs and even bumps heads with an ex-cop who could become a problem for his boss. Yet, his acquaintance with Se-jin proves that he can also be a nice guy, even though his life as a gangster without a doubt shaped his personality. He even tries to help Se-jin get a job. An unusual relationship develops between the two.

Review: "My Dear Desperado" is one of the reasons why I still haven't turned my back on the Korean romantic genre despite the 90 percent probability to get yet another kitsch- and dramaloaden rom-com movie in the end. The poster and the title as well suggest a forgettable movie, but hiding behind that is actually a mature and warm movie that in fact isn't really a romantic flick. The movie's atmosphere is instantly captivating and the two protagonists aren't your usual odd couple, instead they are fleshed out enough in respect to their living conditions that you care for them as individuals. Consequently that's the reason why the romantic relationship develops in a very natural way and doesn't even feel as such.

My Dear Desperado - Film Screenshot 11

First, it is a bit of a surprise that the movie is from 2010. Because technically and also in regards to the atmosphere it reminds us of movies like "Failan", "Maundy Thursday" or "Sunflower". Accordingly movies that feature a good mix of traditional drama, that manages to move to tears, and subtle character exploration and thus inevitably were able to touch you without being cheesy. Therefore, "My Dear Desperado" stands as a sort of time travel that goes hand in hand with some feelings of nostalgia. We are reminded of the days when Korean cinema was at its pinnacle. Thus, it's easy to let yourself get captivated by the film without having to fear that everything ends in melodramatic nonsense.

My Dear Desperado - Film Screenshot 12

In respect to the relationship of the two protagonists it is truely well done that the two very different ways of life aren't put next to each other in a caricaturing manner. And yet things revolve around exactly that in the drama: the different lives of two individuals and not around a love story forced on us. Maybe the two will just become friends or they remain distant adquaintances. That's not really important at first since at the moment they both are a great support for each other in life. Shifting the movie's story on the living conditions of the protagonists around which the love story is woven instead of the other way around as usual gives the drama authenticity and warmth that will captivate and move you without fail.

The implemented gangster story may not come up with anything extraordinarily new, yet manages to avoid most clichés as it strongly centers around Dong-cheol. Another important factor why the movie works out so well are the actors. Park Joong-hoon ("Nowhere to Hide", "Les Formidables") doesn't have your typical face for a romantic story which gives the film more credibility. Moreover, he is a great actor, who creates some very intense scenes here. Yet, Jeong Yu-mi's ("Oki's Movie", "Silenced") skills are nothing short of his, which shouldn't come as a surprise since she is almost a regular on the cast of Hong Sang-soo movies. Together the two don't just create vivid characters, but they also share a special chemistry on screen.

My Dear Desperado - Film Screenshot 13

It's the good mix that makes "My Dear Desperado" score where similar movies fail. There is drama and humor, but there is never a shift to one extreme. The screenplay delivers a subtle story which nonetheless also has a few twists in store. Ultimately, the movie is about the trials and tribulations we come across in life and the people that support us during harsh times. Dong-cheol is after all a good guy, of course, yet has somehow hit a dead end in life until he finds a new purpose. The individual moments are interwoven in such a skilled manner that there is entertainment and some slight profoundness at the same time. Thus, "My Dear Desperado" wouldn't have needed much to get an even better rating. But a few predictable moments, especially concerning the gangster story, are still present. Director Kim Kwang-sik, who has already been assisstant director for "Oasis", nonetheless shows how a nice romantic drama needs to look like.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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