TUNE IN FOR LOVE (2019)
An elongated will-they-won’t-they romance provides placid viewing as a young couple fall for each other but timing provides a repetitive foil
There is a stable of Korean cinema that manage to illustrate Korea’s seminal historical events as the film leaps between such landmarks. This is usually done in more serious works such as Peppermint Candy (1999) and Ode to My Father (2014), but in this sweet and gentle outing we jump from the IMF crisis of 1997 through to the more affluent 2000s.
These passage of time transitions are held together by the love, but failure to reach relationship status, of Kim Mi-soo (Kim Go-eun – A Muse, Coin Locker Girl) and Cha Hyun-woo (Jung Hae-in – The Youth, Conspiracy: Age of Rebellion).
We start in 1994, when Hyun-woo walks into a bakery where Mi-soo is working. Initially scared by the surly youngster, Hyun-woo starts to work at the bakery too and the pair grow closer. It transpires that Hyun-woo has recently be freed from juvenile detention and the context of the crime has left him riddled with guilt. The re-emergence of his troublesome friends then threatens to murky his new start.
Leaping forward three years, the bakery has closed while Mi-soo and Hyun-woo have drifted apart, but a chance meeting sees them reconnect. However, it is short-lived as Hyun-woo leaves for military service the next day, with the pair arranging to communicate on email.
Using the passage of time as a device, they have issues accessing their emails and in the pre-social media age where is it harder to avoid people, they instead are unable to communicate.
Such obstacles persevere into the new millennium and we are left to wonder if Mi-soo and Hyun-woo will be able to block-out the distractions and get together.
The film has certain similarities to On Your Wedding Day from the year prior, but more generally it is like many other will-they-won’t-they romances. This is a path we have been down before and despite the film’s affable nature, we have seen much of this before.
The film certainly injects a large dose of nostalgia, rifting on 90s and 00s music and culture, so will register with some viewers on differing scales of wistfulness for this often overlooked period for such pangs.
It does manage to make good use of British wuss rockers Coldplay in one scene – an achievement in itself – combining the tune with the romance genre trope of running towards your love.
Kim Go-eun and Cha Hyun-woo do a superb job of making their almost-relationship seem believable, adding in those awkward pauses and stunted looks.
A final scene can be like a knock-out dessert in a mediocre restaurant and leave punters with a final lift that pulls everything else up with it. The closing passages of Tune in for Love certainly does some heavy lifting on an otherwise overly familiar romance arch.