When a 24-year-old college student marries a 16-year-old high school girl (yes, it's legally possible in Korea), does the match set the stage for an intriguing story full of complicated psychosocial conflict?
In "My Little Bride
", released nationwide yesterday, the answer is a resounding no.
It was clear from the very beginning that the film was not intended as serious drama. During a premiere for the press, director Kim Ho-jun said it was supposed to convey a "happy and pleasant feeling". So don't expect cinematic artistry.
Sang-min (Kim Rae-won
) is a college boy who never stops drooling over cute girls on campus and at the local bar. While in staying in Canada to study English, he gets a call from his parents to return to Korea.
He is forced to marry Bo-eun (Moon Keun-young), a cute high school girl. The eight-year age gap does not matter. What matters is that Bo-eun's grandfather keep a promise he made to a friend - Sang-min's deceased grandfather - and that his health is apparently deteriorating fast.
But Sang-min and Bo-eun, who have known each other from childhood almost as brother and sister, don't want to get married.
When they refuse, Bo-eun's grandfather hatches a plot to manipulate the two young people. When he is admitted to a hospital, he pretends to be fatally ill in spite of medical exams indicating he can live another 20 years or more. His poor performance wins the sympathy of his distraught granddaughter and the marriage takes place to comply with his "dying wish".
It is rather pathetic that the director expects the audience to believe such a weak plot twist, in which Sang-min and Bo-eun are so easily cheated.
Following the wedding, the newlyweds are about to leave for their honeymoon but the bride cancels at the last minute, leaving the groom to wander around Jeju Island alone.
Bo-eun, now a married woman, has a crush on a baseball player from her school and dares to date him secretly, betraying her handsome husband. Now the jilted Sang-min has to win back his bride. Does this sound like a heartwarming story?
Perhaps the director wants to achieve a measure of simple fun with a Romantic Comedy
that appeals to a wide range of moviegoers in Korea. Indeed, Kim Rae-won
is a big star, especially among female audiences, after his lead role on a hit TV drama, and it is certainly possible many teenage girls will watch the film just to see him.
Moon Keun-young also shows potential as an emerging teen star, with her way of speaking and fashion sense in sync with trendy high school girls.
The director, in other words, relies heavily on the personal appeal of the two main actors, but this doesn't make up for the weak script.
Even when it comes to simple fun and laughter, "My Little Bride
" is at a disadvantage since the TV miniseries "Nangrang 18" - about a forced marriage between an 18-year-old high school girl and a prosecutor - recently ended with an enthusiastic response from viewers thanks to hilarious performances and clever plot twists.
No matter. Director Kim follows the success rules of the genre strictly. As with most romantic comedies, "My Little Bride
" concludes with a happy ending. Sort of.
By Yang Sung-jin