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'Hello My Love' Sugarcoats Sensitive Subject

2009/10/01 Source

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

In "Hello My Love", girl falls in love with boy, but boy falls in love with boy, breaking girl's heart. The movie adds an exotic twist with things Parisian as well as a touch of something trendy with wine lessons to sugarcoat the sensitive subject matter of homosexuality in South Korea.

One may think of the sexually explicit epic "A Frozen Flower", but this feature film debut by Kim Aaron is more akin to Hong Ji-young's trendspotting romance "The Naked Kitchen". It is essentially a romantic comedy with a rather unconventional love triangle strewn into strictly mainstream themes of heartbreak, loss and growing pains.

Everything seems rosy for popular radio personality Ho-jeong (Jo An). She is about to be promoted, evoking the wrath of her unsmiling senior colleague, and is about to welcome back her perfect boyfriend Won-jae (Oh Min-suk) from his two-year sojourn in Paris.

The two childhood friends-turned-lovers have been dating for 10 years, and Ho-jeong waits with glee for Won-jae to fulfill his promise to propose to her once he returns. The wedding seems to be only a formality, as orphaned Ho-jeong is already part of Won-jae's family.

Won-jae however hasn't come back alone ― his roommate from Paris, wine sommelier Dong-hwa (Ryu Sang-wook), never seems to leave his side. Ho-jeong pouts but waits patiently for Won-jae and Dong-hwa to set up their new wine restaurant. But little does she suspect that Dong-hwa literally meant it when he said that "With Won-jae's cooking and my knowledge of wine, we're the perfect couple". (The movie tries to make things more palpable for those less comfortable with homosexuality by adding an element of exoticism, as if getting in touch with one's true nature is only possible in the city d'amour).

When Ho-jeong finally discovers the truth, her world comes crashing down. An audience member once cried on her radio show that his wife suddenly came out of the closet ― "I understand you must be shocked but wouldn't your wife be the one in the most pain, having to deal with an identity crisis? Would it be impossible to try to understand her and embrace her, on a human level?" Likewise Won-jae begs her for her sympathy, saying he discovered his true self through Dong-hwa, but things are often easier said than done.

Nevertheless, our cheerful heroine does not give up. "If you were a broken TV I'd fix it and use it", she says, and demands that Won-jae date her for a month before fully committing to Dong-hwa.

Here, the movie tries to focus rather vaguely on Ho-jeong's attempt to find peace within herself. The character development can be measured by alcoholic preference: Ho-jeong is a self-declared soju purist but becomes interested in wine toward the end of the film, although the very sight of a wine cork could well evoke some unpleasant memories about the guy who stole her man. Jo portrays a most endearing heroine who agonizes over having to compete with someone she cannot even have a catfight with, but eventually learns be true to her heart.

The two male leads also bring freshness to the screen, but their one-note characters sometimes seem to stop short of endorsing stereotypes about sexual minorities. Likewise, caricatured supporting characters are often inserted in a desperate effort to propel the storyline or evoke unremarkable comedy.

The pretty-faced actors make physical displays of affection ― calculatingly in skin-baring tank tops ― but the romance isn't as convincing through most of the three-way tug of hearts. Jo touches the viewer with her very real tears, but the deep bond that her character supposedly has with Won-jae isn't even as compelling as the relationship she shares with her senior colleague.

Nevertheless the movie makes a commendable effort to show that love, whether it be hetero or homosexual, can hurt.

In theaters Oct. 8. Distributed by CJ Entertainment.

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