We’ve seen this before, literally. Ever since “Architecture 101” stole the hearts of many who spent their youth in the 1990s, romance dramas riding on wistful ’90s nostalgia have popped up every few years.
“Tune In for Love,” directed by Jung Ji-woo, is nothing special and has glaring flaws in its somewhat clunky storytelling. Despite its familiarity -- if you are a child of the ’90s -- it does send you back to the good ol’ days, which is always a welcoming experience.
The film starts off in the year 1994, when Hyeon-woo (Jung Hae-in) happens to run across Mi-su (Kim Go-eun) at a bakery where she works. While looking for tofu in a way that shows he has done time, he hears singer Yoo Yeol on his radio show, “Yoo Yeol’s Music Album,” for the first time. He utters, “It’s a miracle!”
Throughout the next decade, fate keeps pulling Hyeon-woo and Mi-su together and pushing them apart again as they try to figure out life on their own, and with each other.
The opening scene was a bit ... corny. The logic behind the “miracle” line was that during his time in juvi, he had wished for one thing in the world to change while he was gone, and Yoo taking over the radio show was that change.
While I understand the intent, and it could have worked in theory, the delivery felt really forced, as if the movie was saying, “This is an important moment! Wink, wink.”
“Tune In for Love” (CGV Arthouse)
I liked the premise, and the setup was nice, about how the two keep running into each other by chance over the years. But this has been done before, and done better in “On Your Wedding Day” in 2018.
This brings out another issue: the chemistry. In the aforementioned “On Your Wedding Day,” the leading pair was not only adorable, but had fantastic chemistry.
The protagonists in this film, however, do not have such strong chemistry, and it feels as if they were simply written to be soul mates. The characters feel underdeveloped and stereotypical, from the main characters to the supposed obstacle.
The scenes are not that skillfully woven together, either, and I feel like the director turned to cliches one time too many. A group of girls flocking to see the handsome part-timer has become a cliche of its own in the South Korean film scene, and too often the movie turns to cheap jokes that are too weak.
Also, it tries to create emotional moments without proper buildup. Overall, it feels like it tried to copy some of the more successful romance films of the past about the ’90s.
Oddly enough, I still ended up enjoying this film to some extent. While the characters were bland, good acting brought them to life and bestowed likability upon them.
I absolutely enjoyed the music, which effectively sent me back to simpler times.
While I wasn’t really a fan of the story it told, the movie’s world and the sentiment that it shared felt nice. It succeeded in depicting the charm of ’90s Korea with the outdated Chollian search engine, Windows 95, the small shops and other props that gave it a special appeal and undoubtedly spoke to anyone who lived through the era. The music and Yoo’s radio show were just the icing on the cake.
As it were, however, the film will have limitations in reaching the general public, or foreign viewers who do not share the wistful longing for the ’90s. It is a film with a very specific target audience.
I wouldn’t say the film would blow anyone’s mind, but it’s sure to give a warm, fuzzy feeling to those who share the same frequency.
“Tune In for Love” hits local theaters Aug. 28.
By Yoon Min-sik (email@example.com)