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  Publicity Stills of "Almost Love"
(Courtesy from Cathay-Keris Films)

In Korean with English & Chinese Subtitles
Director: Lee Han
Starring: Kwong Sang Woo, Kim Ha-neul
RunTime: 1 hr 56 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 8 June 2006


Ji-hwan yet a stunt who's dreaming to be an action star like Jackie Chan and Dalrae who is another actress wannabe have been friends for 11 years. But as Ji-hwan comes dating with a different girl, their relationship starts seesawing between a mere friendship and a love.

Movie Review:

Kwon Sang-woo and Kim Han-nuel team up again after 2003’s My Tutor Friend, which unassumingly went on to be one of South Korea’s most successful romantic comedies of recent times. It not only solidified that genre’s popularity with Korean audiences, it also made big stars out of its 2 leads. Reaching back into past collaborations can be a risky ordeal but the pair’s fantastic rapport made Almost Love one of the most highly anticipated new Korean movies of the year and made their onscreen affinity its primary focus for audiences. Fortunately, that is not a problem at all. In fact, it’s the film’s saving grace.

Kim shines as the first among equals with her effervescent portrayal of the kind and shy girl-next-door, Dal-rae who is an aspiring actress with a debilitating stage fright. She manages to stifle her radiant beauty, seen in her past films to complete her plain-Jane transformation.

Often underplaying the character, she’s the antithesis of Kwon’s over-the-top and animated performance of Ji-hwan, a deluded but charismatic stuntman who dreams of emulating Jackie Chan and writing a screenplay for the definitive action movie. They have been best friends for 12 years, with the requisite teasing and meaningless quarrels. As their relationship with their significant others grow, both Dal-rae and Ji-hwan find that their own relationship has begun to strain.

As expected, the scenes with Kim and Kwon are the most appreciated and honest in the film. Exuding playfulness with a hint of flirtation, both actors bring warmth and charm to their roles that could have been carelessly sacrificed for more gags and trite dialogue. Extending their versatility, they have intense scenes to enact in the film’s ensuing foray into melodrama.

Their blossoming relationship throughout their younger years are shown through flashbacks into memories that the characters share with other characters through anecdotes and written notes. Employing the use of child actors, the scenes in these flashbacks are largely endearing and effective.

The film’s first half is a light-hearted and occasionally clever affair, a great sign for a smooth finish for any romantic comedy. Its predictability was never going to be a thorn in this genre. However the winning formula was unexpectedly penciled out during its halfway mark when it violently and somewhat reluctantly shifts into heavy dramatics. While the beginning moved along quickly with a fun and brisk pace, the route to its conclusion is a chore, stretching its runtime to about 2 hours.

Perhaps fans of My Tutor Friend and fans of the 2 leads might appreciate the opportunity to witness them in slightly different situations together. As well they should be, as both actors do conquer the more than subtle shift in their characters’ tone and exposition, especially in Kwon’s silent struggle with his feelings and newfound situation. It was a job competent enough of masking the unconvincing and wholly unsatisfying twist in the story.

Already a hit in its native South Korea, it might not have the draw for many overseas audiences with its lack of a fluent plot and strange shift in genre but the onscreen chemistry between Kwon Sang-woo and Kim Han-nuel is undeniable and hard to replicate. The film belongs to them and their next cinematic pairing will no doubt be one that will have audiences buzzing.

Movie Rating:

(Great chemistry between the 2 leads, coupled with a few genuine jokes save the film from stumbling over its awkward pacing)

Review by Justin Deimen

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