VERY ORDINARY COUPLE (2013)
Lively and engaging rom-com with dramatic facets, when the secret relationship of two bank colleagues ends a toxic aftermath ensues
Romantic comedies are genre films that too often tumble into cliques of their own authoring. Almost regardless of the end game – usually a zero-sum face-off between getting together, or not – there is an overarching acceptance that despite any collateral damage heartache, love is always worth it in the end.
Our romantic leads themselves can be jealous and reactionary, as we all can, but they remain relatable enough for any love story to seem believable and gain our investment.
We have the further component here of casting the much-loved screen beauty and heart-throb combo of Kim Min-hee (The Handmaiden) and Lee Min-ki.
These expectations are instead subverted by the toxic interactions between the pair and their individual actions, which are churlish, selfish and outright malignant. Not just to each other either, but to those in the blast zone of their spiteful attacks too.
You are less cheering on a final coupling, than perhaps accepting they should part ways. And perhaps resign from a bank job they surely should have been fired from long ago. But Very Ordinary Couple is all the better for allowing straight dramatic conflict take the reins from the usual Rom-Com expectations. We are assisted by enough of the laughs working to consume our attention and arouse our interest.
We open on young bank clerks Jang Young (Kim) and Lee Dong-hee (Lee) who have just broken up, but seem positively sanguine at the prospect of forward-looking freedom.
This is short-lived and acts of various spite and derailment ensues. The pair refuse to talk, throw rages at the prospect of new loves for their ex, hack each other’s Facebook, throw beer at each other, and even demand payment for previous meals and housework.
However, to care this much suggests the break might not be completely clear-cut. Perhaps Young and Dong-hee can find a way back to each other among the wreckage of their failed first attempt?
The opening act rattles along with flourishing developments and laughs, allowing us to bed down for the more thoughtful middle and final acts.
There is a faux-documentary style to the film, but it is one that seems to emerge and disappear throughout. We have periods of to-camera explanations, but then long section of traditionally shot filmmaking. This method may seem superfluous and sometimes redundant, but the documentary approach does allow the delivery of some genuine laughs.
Perhaps the more traditional Rom-Com elements centre on unpacking what love can do to us. The irrationality it can breed, the emotions it can hyper-charge. The film also spends a great deal of time away from such concepts, leaning instead of the drama of Dong-hee's fury and violent outbursts.
The debut feature for Roh Deok, a script editor for the wild and hilarious masterpiece Save the Green Planet! (2003), who demonstrates considerable directorial chops here and a willingness to blend styles and themes to great effect. More to come from Director Roh we suspect.