My Tutor Friend
Director: Kim Kyung-hyung
Cast: Kim Ha-neul, Kwon Sang-woo, Kong Yu
Without any glamorous stars or a tragic and everlasting romance, My Tutor Friend won the heart of the audience with its simple but subtle love story between a tutor and her "student". Up to date, it is still the highest grossing domestic movie in Korea this year.
Adapted from an online novel, this is said to be a true encounter of the author Choi Su-wan. Certainly, novel and movie are two different medium. Therefore you could expect the original story to be trimmed and modified in order to fit the pace, as well as the style of the movie. College student Su-wan (Kim Ha-neul) receives a tutor job in which she is supposed to tutor a high school student called Ji-hoon (Kwon Sang-woo). But she never realizes that this high school student is as old as her. Due to his poor academic performance, Ji-hoon has to repeat his high school class over and over again. That explains why he is still in high school. In the beginning, Su-wan finds it painful to tackle with this over-aged high school student. But later when they have spent more time to interact with each other, their relationship gradually changes... Private tutoring is quite an interesting subject to exploit, it is also very intimate to teenagers, the major group of the overall audience. So I would say the film company was really wise to pick this subject matter and develop it into a captivating light-hearted romantic comedy.
Because both films are adapted from an online source, and both of them feature a similar love-comedy, this film is always compared with the 2001 blockbuster My Sassy Girl. To be honest, My Sassy Girl is without doubt one of the best Korean films I have ever seen before. So far there is still no Korean romantic comedy that can surpass, or at least is as good as My Sassy Girl, including My Tutor Friend. Therefore, it seems meaningless to do such a comparison. Having said that, My Tutor Friend is actually not a disappointment. The plot is quite fruitful. It contains elements of comedy, love and action, new director Kim Kyung-hyung successfully tells a story in an intriguing way that keeps the audience engaged. Although the scale of the movie is not very big, most of the scenes are nevertheless utilized at its best. The only flaw of the plot is probably the lack of follow-ups of most sub-plots. For instance, there is a scene when Su-wan's mother meets Ji-hoon's mother outside the chicken store. I would expect a follow-up that tells more about their friendship, but it just ends there. Ji-hoon's reason of repeating class is also not dramatic enough. When I first read the synopsis, I was expecting a sophisticated and surprising plot twist at the end. I thought Ji-hoon's clandestine and tragic past would be revealed, but quite disappointedly, the ending just turned out to be a banal wrap up.
Kim Ha-neul as the cute and innocent college tutor is persuasive. Among all the Korean actresses, she is probably the one that is least glamorous, and it is this mundane appearance that makes her character believable. However, she seems to suffer from the problem of overacting in certain scenes. Similar to Kim, Kwon Sang-woo is also the kind of actor who doesn't rely on a handsome face to act. It is his arrogant gesture that bestows life upon his character. Kwon is also a good action actor who can perform acrobatic moves skillfully.
My Tutor Friend is not flawless, despite its tremendous result at the box office. The plot is not very complete, the romance of Su-wan and Ji-hoon also feels a little bit forced and abrupt. However, just in terms of entertainment value, it is no doubt a very successful commercial film. If you are looking for something to relax and enjoy, you wouldn't go wrong with this one.
Reviewed by: Kantorates