Unique Situation Romantic Films from Korea
These are my top unique situation romantic films from Korea. They deal with time travel, an alternative universe, and getting married to a high school student because grandpa says so.
시월애 (Si.wol.ae) literally “Time Transcending Love”
English title – Il Mare
As the literal title means this is a love story where the individuals are living in different times. The female lead, Jun Ji-hyun (aka Gianna Jun), is moving out of a custom house overlooking the sea. As she brings her last few boxes out she drops a note in the red mailbox asking the next owner to forward her mail. However the man to read the note is the first owner of the residence; two years prior to when the dated note was written.
After some time both understand that this mailbox allows the different owners of the home to communicate despite years apart. Using this tool they are able to do things like ask the other to retrieve a lost item and give warnings about abnormally cold weather.
They try to take each other on dates, while unable to actually be there, they send instructions and ideas of what they want to show the other. Seeing how these are rather entertaining they make plans to meet in real life.
This film combined with the bigger success of My Sassy Girl released the next year made Ji-hyun a star. It was remade in 2006 with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves with the title “The Lake House”.
인어공주 (In.eo.kong.ju) literally “The Mermaid Princess” but is also the name for the Disney film The Little Mermaid
English title – My Mother, the Mermaid
My Mother The Mermaid Korean Movie Dvd (Jeon Do Yeon) English Sub NTSC All
Na-young is a young office worker living with her parents; an emotionally absent father and an oppressive-controlling mother, Yeon-soon. As she meets with her boyfriend Na-young sees herself becoming more like her mother. For understandable reasons the father has taken enough and suddenly disappears the day Na-young is to go abroad for the first time. She disregards her ticket and runs to her father’s hometown hoping to find him.
Now the movie gets fun as she is transported back to when her parents met; around Na-young’s age. Her father is a handsome young postman delivering the mail on his bike and teaching Yeon-soon how to read and write. Yean-soon is an older sister trying to help her little brother get the education she never had while supporting them as a female diver (haenyeo / 해녀).
Na-young and Yeon-soon become friends which is interesting when you learn there was only one actress playing both roles.
The town is sweet, the time is innocent, her parents make an adorable couple, and the movie is wonderful here.
역전에 산다 (Yeok.jeok.ae san.da)
English title – Reversal of Fortune
Kang Seung-wan was a promising golfer who decided to work the stock exchange. Well he made some bad calls, borrowed money from a loan shark, and now payment is due. After a “reminder” to pay he drives through a tunnel and spots a man who looks just like him, but with blond hair, right before he loses control of his car. Oddly enough he wakes up on a park bench and discovers that he is an alternate universe. In this world he is a pro golfer, his wife is ready to divorce him, and he needs to play in a major tournament despite not picking up a club in over ten years.
While this film is more comedy than romance it is included in this list due to the alternative universe aspect and he learns to be a proper family man.
Do also watch the credits as you get to see what happens to the blond haired Seung-wan in his alternate reality.
And if you like this actress she has been in plenty of other films where she plays other very strong female characters.
어린 신부 (Eo.rin shin.bu)
English title – My Little Bride
My Little Bride – Korean Movie DVD (All Regions with English Subtitles)
This film is a remake of the Hong Kong film My Wife is 18 from two years earlier. While the rights to a number of Korean films have been sold to Hollywood don’t expect this one to.
While families can pick the spouse for their children in various cultures, this is no longer true in Korea. So when recent university graduate Sang-min is told he must marry 15-year-old Bo-eun because of a promise made by their grandparents during the Korean civil war, they both object. Both families are uncomfortable with the idea and everything sets into motion when it appears the last of the two war veterans is on his deathbed.
Despite being forced to marry it is held a secret especially since Bo-eun has a crush on another boy at school and Sang-min is now the newest teacher at Bo-eun’s high school.
I know the premise sounds odd and possibly uncomfortable (which is why it has been hard to recommend at times) but the whole film is funny, not sexual, and is rather sweet. It is less romantic but instead feels like two old friends hanging out in awkward situations.
It was the 4th highest grossing film of the year and is one of many popular roles staring Moon Geun-young (Bo-eun) dubbed “Korean nation’s little sister”.
About the author
Richard Moore holds a B.A. in film production and has finished his M.A. in English
Education in Seoul. You can see other posts about the life of him and his wife in Korea at www.rickandnyo.com.
Richard was my roommate in Seoul and now is a very good friend of mine. He and Nyo are undoubtedly my guiding light whenever I am in doubt about anything related to life in Korea.