Modern relationships come under scrutiny again in Korean director Jung Yoon Soo’s “Love Now” (also known by the equally appropriate title “Changing Partners”), a romantic comedy which revolves around life, love and infidelity. Boasting a top cast and promising a realistic look at the problems faced by people who have perhaps married unwisely, the film attempts to tell a bittersweet though amusing tale based around the fact that for many people, following their heart may not always be the easiest thing to do.
The set up is pretty familiar, following two married couples: rich lighting designer So Yeo (Han Chae Young, recently in “Wild Card”) and her workaholic husband Young Joon (Lee Dong Gun, also in the comedy “My Boyfriend Is Type B”), and loudmouth fashion designer Yoo Na (Uhm Jung Hwa, from the similarly themed “Seducing Mr Perfect”) and her laidback man Min Jae (Park Yong Woo, “World of Silence”). The two cross paths when Yoo Na is hired as a fashion consultant for Young Joon, and when So Yeo and Min Jae hook up during a chance meeting in Hong Kong. Sparks fly and the two naughty couples are soon flirting their way to a game of musical partners through such romantic activities as a drunken boxing match in a bar and a dreamlike barefoot run though the softly lit back streets of Hong Kong (always a lovely idea). Needless to say, complications ensue as the two affairs threaten to turn all of their lives upside down, with the question looming large as to who everyone will end up with by the time the credits roll.
Although “Love Now” is a film which styles itself as having something to say about modern relationships, it never tries to explore the subject in the same depth as for example Yoo Ha’s thought provoking “Marriage is a Crazy Thing”. To be fair, this isn’t too much of a criticism, and as a contemporary romantic comedy the film ticks all the right boxes and certainly does have more substance than many of its peers, although it would have benefited from a little more fleshing out of its characters. As things stand, the four are a fairly obvious bunch, painted in very broad strokes, with Jung content to rely on the odd subplot to provide insight, such as a suspiciously superfluous and underdeveloped blackmail thread involving Yoo Na’s unseen sister which only crops up as a rather obvious device for Young Joon to show his sensitive side and manliness at the same time. Still, for the genre, the film works well enough, mainly since the characters are all pretty likeable, and the viewer does get drawn into the plot, even if the ending is clearly signposted from the first frame.
It has to be said that the film would be a lot more romantic if it weren’t for the fact that all concerned are already married, and as such it breezes by with a casual lack of morals, even more so due to the fact that director Jung shows the two extra martial affairs developing in tandem, ensuring minimal feelings of viewer guilt. Similarly, the film only really tells one side of the story, focusing almost entirely on the excitement of new romance and never going into detail about the problems with the characters’ existing marriages. Whilst there is something to be said for encouraging people to follow their heart rather than languishing in loveless relationships, this does diffuse some of the potential dramatic tension, as the characters’ approaching indiscretions are blame free and never in any doubt. Indeed, the film gets more interesting after the first bouts of hanky panky, as the viewer waits to see just how long it will take them all to catch on to their respective spouse’s cheating ways. Entertainingly, this turns out to be very long indeed, despite the fact that their adultery is anything but subtle, involving constant text messaging, midnight phone calls, long, lingering glances, and inappropriate bathroom incidents.
“Love Now” is pretty frank for this kind of film, with a fair bit of sex and nudity, though Jung gives things a polished, glossy look and never lets the drama get too sleazy. This definitely gives the film a boost in terms of believability, and the tastefully shot scenes of coupling do add a certain air of realism and maturity. Probably its biggest flaw is that although well constructed, at nearly two hours the film is a little on the long side, and the middle section in particular tends to drag in places. However, Jung does manage to keep things moving along at a bright and breezy pace for the most part, and wisely injects a good amount of light-hearted humour into the proceedings. Although this prevents things from getting gloomy or too melodramatic, for which he certainly deserves praise, the increasingly contrived situations could perhaps have done with a little more in the way of laughs, especially the rather farcical denouement.
Even without this, “Love Now” is perfectly enjoyable, and is one of the better romantic comedies to have come from Korea over the last couple of years. Although it does represent to some extent a bit of a missed opportunity for more a more searching examination of modern morality, it certainly provides all that the genre fan could ask for and makes for enjoyable viewing.
Jeong Yoon-soo (director) / Kim Jin, Kim Seon-mi (screenplay)
CAST: Uhm Jung-hwa