Sweet & Sour, review of the Korean film available on Netflix

Sweet & Sour, review of the Korean film available on Netflix

Sweet & Sour

The romantic component in South Korean television is a stable element in what is the drama landscape, indeed it is often one of the main reasons why some of the most famous shows have become so. After all, it is not dissimilar to what happens with our own romantic films, but in Korea it is often used to accompany love with a strong social dimension that we can define very characteristic, the same that in any case is strongly felt in the oriental context, given the delicate (and often problematic) balance between one's position in the world of work or in everyday life and one's love life.

Sweet & Sour, a film by Lee Gye-byeok recently released on Netflix, is exactly one of those films that describe South Korean love and what it means to build a life as a couple in the Seoul scenario between family, work and personal fulfillment. Despite the introduction you have just read, it may seem like a light approach, and Sweet & Sour is, after all, but the underlying message will be the element that could surprise you in the middle of the vision, especially if you it starts from the typical external point of view of us Westerners.

The traffic of the heart

The perspective with which the film starts is however very simple, even tender after all. The spotlight shines on a chubby boy who is disheartened about his possible romantic life because of his body, who ends up hospitalized for a not so serious health problem, although he is treated by everyone as a sort of sick person contagious and very dangerous. Everyone avoids him, even his loving parents, except young nurse Da-eun, played by Chae Soo-bin: a rising Korean TV star who has racked up some awards for shows like Cheer Up! , Strongest Deliveryman and the masterpiece I'm Not a Robot (the latter can be found on Viki TV).

The relationship between Da-eun and the patient, Hyuk, strengthens and grows day by day until the friendly complicity of the two turns into something more. So much so that after being hospitalized, Hyuk desperately goes to look for her in the telephone directory (yes, they still exist) and finding her, the two end up staying together and organizing a holiday for Christmas. The film then moves to an unspecified time and shows us a Hyuk who, thanks to love, has lost a lot of weight, so much so that he changes actor and moves on to the one who is actually the protagonist of the film: Jang Ki-yong, he much more experienced than Chae Soo bin as her career started in 2012 as a model and exploded with Confession Couple in 2018 and then consolidated with shows like WWW and the movie Bad Guys.

In Sweet & Sour the two live a model couple life , and once he lost weight for love, Hyuk achieved success in an urban design company. An important career in the South Korean panorama, being in constant architectural evolution and the modernization of urban areas is always a complex but refined effort. And it is from the thrust of that career that the problems between the two will begin, both jousters in the circus of life between hours lost in traffic, impossible shifts and social pressures of all kinds.

Living true to its name, Sweet & Sour is the perfect balance between the sweetly romantic side of a love that blossomed into sincerity and the bitterness of trying to keep it alive beyond the boyish dream. Every comic moment has an acid aftertaste because as much as the film will make you laugh in some situations, going on with their repetition it will become more and more evident how much in reality for the two protagonists they are not at all funny. And the symbol of all this is something that we Italians have in common with Seoul: traffic.

Hyuk, like every worker transferred to a different location to make a career, is destined to remain queued for hours in the main hubs roads in the country and initially seems not to think about it that much. After all, he is organized and waking up a little earlier he manages to avoid the columns of cars that are created during rush hour. But when everything starts to collapse and the work starts to be more demanding in terms of hours, enough to keep it there even at night and it is common practice in Korea or Japan, then the traffic not only turns from a joke about people washing. or they change in the car to an all too common demon, but perhaps it becomes one of the main reasons why Hyuk's life as a couple ends up cracking.

Sweet & Sour, or rather Paradoxes & Surprises

Details, trivial things if you see them like this on the screen. One would never say that a collection of insignificant stuff becomes a thorn in the dream of a couple who wants to marry and have children, topics that both take on a much more concrete centrality than the verbal one towards the middle of the film. Moment in which Sweet & Sour stops being Sweet and moves on to simple cruelty, to the banality of a social evil that is hardly perceived as hidden as it is by common conventions in the workplace, by the sacrifices necessary to bring the loaf home and the realization personal questioned by a life as a couple perceived as suffocating even when it is reduced to the bone.

The beauty of Sweet & Sour is being able to stay on a really subtle border without ever breaking into one or the other. another aspect, using comedy as a panacea for the tragic moments of the two protagonists. The absurdity of some situations, such as a fight in the middle of an order at the drive-in of a fast food restaurant, is a weapon that the director uses to describe the nature of the couple in hand, leaving us constantly in doubt if the two loved each other. really or if it was just the result of a passion that lasted until the period was comfortable. For Sweet & Sour, love must be able to resist life or succumb terribly to a cynical realism, which is a particular achievement considering that the oriental world of work is more than competitive and becomes a sufficient reason to cancel the individual in favor of his economic position. While this is the most obvious criticism of the film, the last few minutes completely change the cards.

In Conclusion

Sweet & Sour is in fact one of those films that you can see again twice: first in the total naivety of not knowing what awaits in the conclusion and the second to review the entire film in a completely different perspective, a bit like Shutter Island. We don't want to reveal anything specific, however what Sweet & Sour has prepared for the viewer is something so unexpected and well orchestrated that it is a welcome surprise, as well as being able to add other food for thought to a film already loaded with meaning. . And it's nice when a film, despite its lightness suitable for all audiences, leads you to think about what it means to be part of a world that often forgets the importance of human feelings.

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