So-jeong (played by Kim So-eun) is a pastry chef. Her boss Seung-jae (played by Sung Hoon) is always giving her a hard time at work, either for being late, or showing up in a dirty uniform, or just making poor quality pastries. So-jeong is so overworked and overstressed that she doesn't seem like a typical romantic movie protagonist at all. This problem dogs most of us "Are We In Love?" as I kept thinking to myself, this movie is less a love story and more a depiction of the many ways a woman can be sexually harassed.
There is powerfully awkward energy in the first setpiece after the magic book is introduced. So-jeong just keeps getting hit on by random men who aren't particularly attractive. It's discomforting, and so greatly weirds So-jeong out that any self-esteem boost from these apparently random compliments are completely canceled out by the general creepiness of the situation. The whole segment reads like a public service advertisement explaining why men shouldn't hit on women they don't know in public.
The actual main romance between So-jeong and Seung-jae is similarly in strange territory because it's not at all clear from the start that we're supposed to be rooting for them to get together. After all, Seung-jae is both kind of a jerk to So-jeong, and is also her boss. Plus, he's always hanging out with Anna (played by Kim So-hye), a woman who seem nice enough even though she's played as a girly girl. I felt like I was supposed to dislike Anna although I couldn't imagine why.
These plot points are eventually smoothed over and explained, but by that point any possible chemistry Kim So-eun and Sung Hoon might have had has been thoroughly smothered. They're so badly cast relative to one another as romantic leads it's not clear to me director Kim Jeong-kwon ever had them do screen tests together. But even separately both the lead actors here are horribly mediocre.
Neither So-jeong nor Seung-jae have much in the way of character arcs or motivation, so it's not entirely the fault of the actors. Much of "Are We In Love?" is so bafflingly half-baked I'm still having trouble figuring out how this movie is so long. The magic love book that is the movie's whole concept offers little in the way of useful information to drive the action. Yet its prophetic powers are referenced in two separate montages, neither of which contextualizes past events in an interesting way.
"Are We In Love?" is aggressively rote in its extremely dull plotting. The production even manages to be cheap in a boring way, with an increasingly obnoxious reliance on piano music to move along anything in the soundtrack. Director Kim Jeong-kwon even manages to skip the opening of the fire scene, the closest thing "Are We In Love?" has to a technically challenging piece of staging. The movie's such a low-effort production even writing a normal length review feels like giving it too much credit.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Are We In Love?""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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