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Original Title:

South Korea 2003

Comedy, Romance

Kwon Chil-in

Jang Jin-Young
Eom Jeong-hwa
Lee Beom-su
Kim Ju-hyuk
Han Ji-hye
Song Jae-ho

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Story: Na-nan (Jang Jin-Young) is transfered by her boss from department of design to a Chilis Restaurant, where she now works as a waitress. Moreover, her boyfriend breaks off with her in a very unspectacular way. Na-nan, being nearly 30 years old, gets panicky. Concerning her career and her love life it doesn't look so well. Luckily, she has a good friend, Dong-Mi (Eom Jeong-hwa), who shares an apartment with a guy, Jeong-jun (Lee Beom-su), on a platonic level. She has a few words of comfort with her friend, but it seems that Dong-mi has problems on her own. Her boss takes away the project from her she has been working on for so long and hard. In addition he even sexually harasses her. Naturally, Dong-mi who was always very straight-forward and not defenseless at all, doesn't take it anymore from her boss and makes fun of him in front of the whole team. As a result she now is without a job and even after her 48th boyfriend she didn't find the right guy, yet. Her flat-mate Jeong-jun isn't luckier as he has been dumped by his girlfriend in favor of another guy.
Therefore, Na-nan, Dong-Mi and Jeong-jun oftentimes sit together and talk about their problems, getting drunk. Between Dong-Mi and Jeong-jun, who argue like an old couple anyway, something like a relationship actually evolves, and Na-nan seems to be finally lucky, too. Successful businessman Su-heon (Kim Ju-hyuk) goes through a lot of effort to start a relationship with Na-nan. But is he really the right man for Na-nan?

Review: "Singles" is a comedy romance. However not one of those typical Korea-romances, but a relatively unconventional and sometimes even serious movie that nearly turns the genre upside down. Nonetheless, after a few seconds it's already obvious that "Singles" doesn't want to do so without being mainly a happy and joyful movie.

The topic of the movie isn't that new and parallels to "Sex and the City" might come to mind, but fortunately the film goes another way.
Na-nan's search for her perfect man is amusing without being kitschy. When Su-heon enters her life a commencing and everything but perfect relationship is presented in a very credible way. Na-nan's feelings and doubts are portrayed by Jang Jin-Young very believeable and sometimes even in a quite extraordinary way.
"Singles" works because of its interesting and exceptional characters, who feel even more real because of their odd characteristics, which make it easy for the audience to sympathize with them.

Jang Jin-Young actually looks good, but she is not your typical beauty. Her nature is the reason why she looks so cute, which is in fact very essential for the movie. She is the one who leads us through the story and does so remarkably. Sometimes cheeky, at other times shy or sad she brings out the best of her role. Yet, all too often Eom Jeong-hwa steals the show as Dong-mi, which isn't only because of her outstanding looks. Her directness, her wits and her pugnacity make her more than just the perfect complement to Na-nan.
The two male characters do also give a good job, as they know how to use their little on-screen time and manage to win over our sympathy, too.

Of course there are some kitschy and hackneyed scenes, for example when the love story between Dong-mi and Jeong-jun kicks in as it was predictable all along, since they always quarreled like an old couple, anyway. Nevertheless director Kwon Chil-in manages the trick to do these scenes without letting them feel too corny and when it is the case, then it is done with a wink. As a good example, there is one goodbye-scene at an airport where two lovers embrace each other for a last time and one of the two says that in a movie the camera would be spinning around them by now. Naturally, that's exactly what's happening at that moment! This isn't the only time the movie doesn't take itself too serious.
Nonetheless the relationship problems and the struggle with life are dealt with the necessary seriousness. Since the movie is about people who are all about 30 years old, there is also not this typical oftentimes unnerving teeny atmosphere to be found, here. Yet, the movie definitely radiates an irresistible charme, because of its great characters and nice colors.

Some twists are a little bit unexpected and maybe might feel somewhat out of place. The ending is also everything but what we would have expected. But in my opinion that's exactly what makes "Singles" so extraordinary, as it breaks with the existing rules of romances. The movie doesn't have an utopic Happy-End, but solves the problems in a way it seems credible and would have been done in real life, too.
The humor of the movie is just brilliant. To describe this kind of humor is difficult, as one has to see it to understand it. When the protagonists get sudden emotional outbursts of madness and absolutely inappropriately start to cry and shout, and it never really feels out of place then you just have to laugh with tearful eyes. Moreover, the next joke always kicks in when you least expect it.

"Singles" is an unconventional, but nonetheless positive Happy-Life comedy, which is a little highlight of the genre. Just watch it!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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