Korean director Kim Seong Wook makes his debut with “Unstoppable Marriage”, having gained experience working on the hits “Lovely Rivals” and “My Teacher, Mr. Kim” as well as the hip cult favourite “Attack the Gas Station”. The film is a romantic comedy, with the emphasis firmly on humour rather than melodrama, and he certainly shows a deft touch for this kind of thing, orchestrating a top ensemble cast of newcomers and industry veterans, and managing to milk plenty of laughs out of the classically farcical setup.
The film begins with an unlikely relationship developing after rich plastic surgeon Ki Baek (Ha Suk Jin, also in “Hot for Teacher” and “Hello Baby”) and middle class doll maker Eun Ho (popstar and television actress Yoo Jin, here making her big screen debut) are literally thrown together during a paragliding incident. Quickly overcoming their initial distaste for each other, they then face an even greater pair of obstacles on the road to romance – her staunchly traditional father (Lim Chae Moo, recently in “Highway Star”) and his snobbish, Westernised mother (Kim Soo Mi of the “Marrying the Mafia” series). Determined to break up the happy couple by any means necessary, the two parents join forces for a sabotage mission in a sneaky attempt to subvert the course of true love.
One of the reasons why “Unstoppable Marriage” works so well is that Ha Suk Jin and Yoo Jin make for a great onscreen couple, and the viewer really comes to hope that they will end up together. Although their relationship is a definite case of opposites attracting, with him being a spoiled mother’s boy with a penchant for wearing pink and her being a bit of a tomboy with a hint of “My Sassy Girl” about her (naturally), their courtship is oddly sweet. Through their awkward early scenes together involving him wetting his pants and generally acting the fool, to their disastrous first meetings with each other’s parents, their feelings for each other build in convincing fashion and they certainly earn the right to their happiness. Taking up the first third of the film, this gives the later comedy a solid emotional core which continues to drive the plot and which director Kim wisely never allows the laughs to distract too much from.
Although there are plenty of jokes early on, the comedy really begins in earnest once the two parents get involved. Both are comically monstrous figures in their own ways, with Lim Chae Moo playing a grumpy martial arts practitioner and ex-soldier who torments the less than manly Ki Baek, and Kim Soo Mi camping it up with some hilarious use of bad English and vulgar language that amusingly undermines her aristocratic ambitions. Kim plays their opposing value systems off against each other very well, working from a great script with just a hint of social satire, though with most of the humour being of the broad, though effective variety. As things progress he piles on the deceptions and misunderstandings in fine style, showing a good sense of comic pacing and timing that keeps the viewer thoroughly entertained.
Possibly what is most impressive about the film is that although it has a big heart and a sentimental streak a mile wide, the expected final act deluge of melodrama never arrives, and Kim allows things to come to a satisfyingly natural conclusion. Of course, there are a few life lessons learned and sudden eruptions of hitherto unsuspected emotions (complete with an excruciatingly painful scene featuring one of the worst bit part Western actors in recent years), though in general the tears and hysteria are kept to a vaguely dignified minimum. This gives the proceedings a far more genuine feel and doesn’t undermine the hard-won viewer goodwill which might have been lost through the usual kind of tawdry tugs at the heartstrings.
As a result, “Unstoppable Marriage” is that rare thing, a romantic comedy which manages to combine and perfectly balance believable, heartfelt amour with a steady stream of hilarity. Director Kim manages to strike just the right pitch and inspires great game performances from his ensemble cast, making for a beguiling slice of entertainment which should be enjoyed not only by fans of the form, but by anyone looking for a good date film likely to please girls and guys alike.
Kim Seong-wook (director) / Kim Seong-wook (screenplay)
CAST: Kim Soo-mi, Im Chae-moo, Yoo Jin, Ha Seok-jin