An affable rom-com that takes a spin at the love triangle with the scientist, his wife the cook and her lover.
There are few films that can claim to have knocked The Avengers off its box office pedestal, and while they may be Earth’s mightiest heroes, they couldn’t stand up to the might of a Korean romantic comedy in its home market. In May this year, All About My Wife took out the superhero film and went on to become the fourth South Korean film to pass the 4,000,000 ticket sales mark during the 2012 calendar year. The broad rom-com, oestensibly a remake of remake of the 2008 Argentinian film Un Novio para Mi Mujer (“A Boyfriend for my Wife”), has easy box-office appeal, and is bolstered by some incredibly capable leads. However, the path to true love was never destined to run smoothly.
After meeting in Nagoya, Japan during the midst of an earthquake, the seemingly timid and attractive Jung-In (Lim Soo-Jung) meets seismologist Doo-Hyun (Lee Sun-Kyun), and their mutual attraction quickly turns into a full-bloom romance. Seven years later, they have settled into comfortable domesticity as a married couple, and despite Jung-In’s good looks and passion for cooking, Doo-Hyun is miserable but is too timid to ask for a divorce. Feeling smothered by his wife, he asks for a transfer to a remote outpost, but his elation and his sudden freedom turns sour when Jung-In turns up to his new abode unannounced and resumes the pattern. In desperation, Doo-Hyun turns to his neighbour, a notorious Casanova named Sung-Ki (Ryoo Seung-Ryong), asking him to seduce Jung-In so that she might leave him on her own volition.
The set-up for this successful comedy is actually quite charming, and the first act of the film easily slips into an old-fashioned screwball comedy as Doo-Hyun repeatedly complains about his wife. While the screenplay could be criticised for overly burdening Lim Soo-Jung with relentlessly horrid character, spending much of the first act of the film being the nagging, cloying and outright hostile woman her husband makes her out to be. Of course, this section is told entirely from the perspective of Doo-Hyun, perhaps revealing more about him that he would care to admit. As is the way in these things, the tables are eventually turned as Doo-Hyun’s plans come unfurled, and he begins to look the fool.
It’s a familiar comedy of errors, perhaps only let down by the somewhat dragging middle act, when All About My Wife isn’t quite rom and it isn’t quite com, but its drama is all of the melo variety. It doesn’t take a seismologist to figure out that a love triangle will form, and its all going to end up at a pre-determined place. Yet for the most part its a pleasant journey, with Ryoo Seung-Ryong and Lee Sun-Kyun making an unlikely but likeable duo vying for the attentions of the same woman. The film manages to crack open little tidbits on each of the principal cast members, including some genuinely touching moments. The only real drawback might be the film’s length, at just over two hours, but there’s definitely enough here to make this an enjoyable festival outing.
All About My Wife played at the Korean Film Festival in Australia in August/September 2012. Full disclosure: The Reel Bits is a media partner of KOFFIA, but opinions on films are unswayed by this relationship.