ON YOUR WEDDING DAY (2018)
Charming and sometimes subversive rom-com shows flashbacks of a former couple and how their on-off relationship was plagued by misfortune and circumstance
The road to romantic fulfilment is pathed with conflict and despair – or so the story goes in most romantic comedies. On Your Wedding Day attempts to shift this narrative though, more closely aligning with the ‘tis better to have loved and lost’ adage instead.
The truth is, for most of us anyway, our first love is not our final love. Or perhaps defining love. It is the training wheels version of the experience.
Here, we witness Hwang Woo-yeon (Kim Young-kwang – Runway Cop, Hot Young Bloods), a lofty high school physical education teacher, receive an invitation to the wedding of his first love – the pint-sized Hwan Seung-hee (Park Bo-young – Scandal Makers, A Werewolf Boy).
The memory jogging invitation send us back through a series of flashbacks, firstly at High School, where Seung-hee is a newly transferred student to Woo-yeon’s school. Harassed by a large cohort of boys, Seung-hee agrees to a pretend relationship with the tough Woo-yeon to warn them off. However, family issues mean that she must move on again, leaving Woo-yeon heartbroken.
Years later, the lazy Woo-yeon, who possesses no intention of studying hard and going to college, sees Seung-hee in his friend’s university brochure and resolves to make it there too. Hard work and bowls of easy-to-prepare mixed rice sees him make his goal, catching up with Seung-hee at the university on the initial pretense of coincident.
This pattern of getting close again, only for a mixture of opportunity, circumstance and sometimes conflict to push the pair apart again is shown over a 10-year period of flashbacks. Back in the present day and Woo-yeon must decide if he can attend the wedding and exactly what he will say to Seung-hee if he does choose to attend.
“Love is all about timing. It’s no good meeting the right person too soon or too late,” we are rather sagely told by a reflective Woo-yeon, who correctly notes that while we find ourselves wrapped up in romantic notions of fate, sometimes life simply gets in the way of letting relationships work.
It is not made entirely clear how much we should be invested in this pair getting together. Genre expectations and a natural attachment to lead characters has us partly cheering them on, but too often they seem distance and indifferent together to really warrant a happy-ever-after. At times the sporty and competitive Woo-yeon seems to be pursing Seung-hee for some version of victory, rather than a connection we might call love.
What On Your Wedding Day does very well – alongside being genuinely funny in parts – is provide a means to spark reflection in all of us. To ponder the one that got away, or that first kiss and following heartbreak. A film that manages to be fulfilling, even as it traverses away from what is traditionally comprehended as ‘fulfilling’ in the rom-com space.