[HanCinema's Film Review] "Marriage Blue"
By William Schwartz | Published on
I-ra (played by Go Joon-hee) is a wedding planner who finds herself in an awkward position after discovering she's pregnant. The father is Dae-bok (played by Lee Hee-jun), and the relationship isn't currently at a place where a long-term commitment feels appropriate. Dae-bok, to his credit, panics upon receiving the news, not because he's scared of being a father, but because he realizes from I-ra's diffident attitude that she doesn't feel the relationship has any kind of future. Dae-bok moves desperately to try and change her mind.
This fare is a bit light for a feature length plot, so "Marriage Blue" tries to liven up proceedings by inserting three other couples on a current course toward marriage. I-ra and Dae-bok are appealing, empathetic characters, and to a lesser extent so are Vicka (played by Guzal Tursunova) and Gun-ho (played by Ma Dong-seok). Their story, mainly centering around Gun-ho's fear of inadequacy, is simple but effective.
The other two couples are, unfortunately, quite repulsive. One pair consists of two immature childish brats who harass and harangue each other to an extent far beyond what it appropriate, in public to boot. The other is dominated by a plotline about cheating, where the cheater is clearly expected to be seen sympathetically. This is problematic, as the person in question is horribly vile and unlikable, and seems far more motivated by selfish desire than anything that could seriously be called love.
Potentially this could have actually made for a good movie- I-ra's entire conflict is that she sees marriage on a daily basis and has adapted a pretty cynical view toward the institution. Storylines about romantic relationships between terrible people could do a lot to bolster her viewpoint, and make Dae-bok's efforts to persuade her a genuine challenge. Unfortunately there's no cohesive narrative thrust uniting all the couples- most of the essential storyline events take place in a vacuum. No individual couple is aware of what the other couples are doing.
Given this degree of separation, it's essential that the movie sell the idea that all of these people are sympathetic, relatable, and connected. But "Marriage Blue"'s idea of a connected storyline is to just have random individuals from the couples run into each other at certain points and share scenes. No individual couple affects the other in a meaningful way. Well, except when the unlikable characters show up in the likable character's storylines. Those scenes are just as bad as the ones when the unlikable characters are hanging out with each other.
There's a few jokes here- but none of them are of particularly strong quality, and certainly don't justify the damage a lot of this movie's humor does to any possible sense of emotional resonance. As a result, "Marriage Blue" ends up turning into an exhausting, often painful experience of tonal clash where schadenfreude-esque humor sabotages storylines that seem to be trying to make more meaningful statements. The resulting movie may perhaps be satisfying for someone who just really wants to watch a movie about a bunch of marriages. Anyone more discriminating than that will just find a giant disappointing mess.
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.