Review: Petty Romance / Cert: 15 / Director: Kim Jeong-Hoon-Il / Screenplay: Kim Jeong-Hoon-Il / Starring: Lee Seon-gyun, Choi Kang-hee, Baek Do-bin, Choi Hee-jin / Release Date: October 8th
Here's one for all those comic geeks and budding manga-ka out there: a rom-com set in the world of Manwah (Korean comic books). Bet you weren't expecting that! Jung-bae (Lee Seon-gyun) is widely acknowledged to be talented artist; unfortunately, his works, heavy on philosophy but light on plot and human interest, don't go down at all well with publishers and readers. When a competition for an adult comic is announced with a cash prize of a whopping $100,000, the earnest young artist reluctantly decides to take on a writer to spice things up.
He turns to the kooky Da-rim (Choi Kang-hee), a virgin with a vivid imagination who has just lost her job as a sex columnist. Loftily assuming that comics are for kids and that it doesn't take much effort to dream one up, she lazes around his flat, scoffing noodles and slurping down endless cups of coffee and falling asleep. Eventually, however, the stern Jung-bae instils some kind of work ethic in her, and the two of them cobble together a racy story about a female assassin who has kinky sex with her victims.
The film follows the seesawing of their relationship, in which first she, then he, has the upper hand. Inevitably, romance blossoms, but there are obstacles to true love. Da-rim's bitchy fashionista friend Kyung-sun (Ryu Hyung-kyung) wants Jung-bae for herself. And Jung-bae (who has a complicated backstory to do with his father, a famous artist, and a much-treasured painting of his mother) has problems letting go of his past and moving forward.
These twists and turns are piled on a bit too thick by first-time director Kim Jeong-hoon-Il, and some might gag on the movie's sugar-coated feel. But this is still a film with a lot going for it. There's the novelty of the setting, with its simultaneous camaraderie and backstabbing (and a horrendous awards ceremony at the end with all the positive vibes of a crematorium service). And things are livened up considerably by the use of animated cutaways, mounted in a wide variety of styles, which illustrate the characters' inner fantasies, or snippets of the comic they're collaborating on, or sometimes a feverish amalgam of both.
Lastly, there are the performances. Lee Seon-gyun does a good job as the long-suffering and stoical Jung-bae, and the lovely Hyung-kyung Rung pouts and struts with the best of them as vicious clothes-horse Kyung-sun. But this is very much Choi Kang-hee's movie. With rolling eyes, elastic features and any number of quirks and pratfalls, she delivers an appealingly ditzy turn very like Zooey Deschanel's in New Girl. So if you love comics but you're also a bit of a softy, this could be the feel-good flick for you.
Special Features: Making of, Interview of lead actor and actress, Korean Teaser Trailer, Stills Gallery