Director: Kwak Jae-yong
Cast: Son Ye-jin, Jo Sung-woo, Jo In-sung, Lee Ki-woo
For most of you, acclaimed director Kwak Jae-yong (My Sassy Girl) is probably the biggest reasons that propels you to watch this film. The Classic, Kwak Jae-yong's latest work right after My Sassy Girl, is actually quite different from its predecessor. Compared to the joyful and highly entertaining My Sassy Girl, The Classic is rather a sophisticated and passionate drama.
This film features the love stories of two generations, with Son Ye-jin playing the role of both the mother and the daughter. Ji-hye (Son Ye-jin) discovers her mother Joo-hee's (Son Ye-jin) love letters by accident. Out of curiosity, she begins to read about Joo-hee's first love with Joon-ha (Jo Sung-woo). At the same time, Ji-hye falls in love with her schoolmate Sang-min (Jo In-sung), and she soon realizes that the situation she is facing is somewhat identical to the triangular love relationship among Joo-hee, Joon-ha and Joon-ha's friend Tae-soo (Lee Ki-woo). Although the story intertwines between the past (Joo-hee) and the present (Ji-hye), the focus of interest seems to be the mother Joo-hee and Joon-ha. Apart from her romance with Sang-min (which doesn't take up too much screen time), the most important function of the daughter Ji-hye is to merely act as a storyteller that brings out Joo-hee's story.
Apparently, director Kwak Jae-yong is using a different approach in this film. Unlike the blatant and comical encounters of the characters in My Sassy Girl, the love affairs of the characters are mainly developed from casual daily activities. From the boat rowing date to the firefly catching scene, most of them are depicted in a very simple and direct manner. There is no surprising twist at all, yet the romantic atmosphere keeps the audience engaged. One problem of this kind of melodrama is that the story is easily fallen into cliche (Ji-hye does actually say so when she begins reading her mother's diary), and this is what the latter part of the movie suffers from. The scene after Joon-ha joined the army seems to be a forced tragedy. It is quite distracting as it seems a misfit to the banal events in the first half of the film and it also reminds me of Pearl Harbor. The mood is inconsistent. Moreover, the twist at the end (identity revealing) is also not as touching as I would expect. It is probably because the link between the mother and the daughter's respective love affairs is not that strong. Nevertheless, this film is still enjoyable as Kwak Jae-yong is no doubt a master of storytelling. There are many unforgettable scenes that will make you love this film. The cinematography is excellent (as good as the unbeatable Il Mare), as well as the trademark mellow background music, viewers are inevitably soaked in this delicately crafted diegesis.
Son Ye-jin looks gorgeous in this film. Her roles as both the mother and the daughter are persuasive, despite the physical resemblance between the two characters. The mother is more active in pursuing her love while they daughter is a passive and shy little girl. Among the two male leads, Jo Sung-woo performs much better than Jo In-sung. Perhaps it is because of the plot and the character design, Jo Sung-woo's lively portrayal of his character Joon-ha is way more appealing than the wooden face of Jo In-sung. Joon-ha's tragedy also helps him to win the heart of the audience easily. New actor Lee Ki-woo (this guy is really tall!) is also impressive that viewers should keep an eye on.
In general, The Classic is a professionally made romance movie. Every scene is beautifully and carefully constructed. I am quite confident that most Korean drama lover would find it an enjoying piece. However, one advice for those My Sassy Girl's lover is, this is not a sequel of that film and so please don't expect any surprise as you would find in My Sassy Girl.
Cool guy(s) - Jo Sung-woo, Son Ye-jin, Lee Ki-woo
Reviewed by: Kantorates