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Korean romantic comedy “Finding Mr. Destiny” is likely to be of particular interest to genre fans, given that it marks the first post-army outing for TV heartthrob Gong Yoo, who made his name with popular drama “The 1st Shop of Coffee Prince”. The film was directed by Jang Yoo Jung, adapted from her own hit stage musical, and also stars actress Lim Soo Jung (recently in (“Jeon Woo Chi”) as his love interest, along with Lee Cheong Ah (“Romance of their Own”), Cheon Ho Jin (“I Saw the Devil”), Shin Sung Rok (“The Worst Guy Ever”) and Ryu Seung Soo (“Battlefield Heroes”) as the usual assortment of comedy relief best friends and meddlers.
Gong Yoo takes the role of Gi Joon, an anally-retentive and uptight young man who loses his job at a travel agency and starts his own company, a one man business that helps people to find their long lost first loves. He finally lands a client in Ji Woo (Lim Soo Jung), an unlucky in love theatre director whose pushy father hires Gi Joon to find a man from her past called Kim Jong Wook who she met while backpacking in India. Although he has little to go on beyond the name, Gi Joon throws himself into the case, travelling around the country with Ji Woo in an effort to track down her former paramour, inadvertently falling for her in the process.
It’s pretty obvious from early on that “Finding Mr. Destiny” is based upon a musical, with much of the film taking place in a theatre, revolving around Ji Woo’s job as a stage director, and with Jang Yoo Jung managing to work in a few numbers and set pieces. Seeing Jang playing to her strengths, these sequences do seem to be the parts of the film she is most confident with, somewhat more so than the comedy elements. Whilst they really don’t have much to do with anything, in particular a big musical finale which comes rather out of nowhere, they are well handled and energetic, and help to give the film a slightly different feel to most other romantic comedies. Also setting the film apart from other genre efforts with near-identical plots is the travel theme, which involves multiple flashbacks to Ji Woo’s time in India, adding a certain feel of fate and globetrotting, and making for some gorgeous local colour with some eye catching shots of the Blue City. The film does in general have a strong visual component, with the couple’s journey around various regions in Korea also resulting in some lovely scenery and panoramas, making it a sort of romantic road movie.
Whilst the central concept of a first love detective agency is patently ridiculous, the film doesn’t take itself seriously, wisely aiming for a fun, bouncy feel. At the same time, it also avoids at least some of the more common genre clichés, never pushing the whole “Sassy Girl” angle too far or having Ji Woo spend too much time berating or beating Gi Joon, and it benefits from a more laid back air. This having been said, the film does force in the obligatory getting drunk scene – judging by the country’s romantic comedies, one might be forgiven for thinking that a high proportion of single young Korean women are raging alcoholics. The humour for the most part is based around embarrassment gags, though without the slapstick every getting too far out, and the film is endearingly silly rather than crude.
Obviously, the cast are the main selling point, and Gong Yoo does a good job of balancing nerdy with likeable, being goofy at times without playing too much of a fool. As a result, although there isn’t a great deal to his character, he manages to make the requisite shift to romantic leading man for the more melodramatic last third when things inevitably turn all serious and emotional. Lim Soo Jung is also perfectly acceptable as the female lead, and though developing along entirely predictable lines, their relationship does hold the interest and tick the all-important genre boxes.
“Finding Mr. Destiny” may not be anything new, though it’s a nicely done and enjoyable romantic comedy that should certainly please fans or anyone looking for a little light entertainment. With Gong Yoo making a successful, if perhaps unambitious return to screens, the film makes for pleasant viewing, with just about enough in the way of international travel and stage scenes to stand out from the crowd.
Yu-jung Jang (director) / Lee Kyeong-ee (screenplay)
CAST: Su-jeong Lim … Seo Ji-Woo
Yoo Gong … Han Gi-Joon
Ho-jin Jeon … Seo Dae-Ryung
Seung-su Ryu … Gi-Joon’s brother-in-law
Cheong-a Lee … Ji-Hye