This was one of those times I watched a movie out of pure masochism. The titles (both local and International) were off-putting, and the feel I had going in was of a puerile raunch-com that was always going to be limited because of the fact it would be somewhat unable to actually go the full distance. I even started the movie a handful of times, never once getting further than 5 minutes in. But at ThingsFallApart I am nothing if not a tryer, and something made me take that extra step. And quite unexpectedly? I got a totally unexpected win.
In “My PS Partner” Hyun-seung (Ji Seong) is struggling with the breakup with his long term girlfriend So-yeon (Shin So-yul). He is certainly in the Anger stage of the Kübler-Ross model, lashing out at friends and finding it hard to concentrate at work. One night he gets a call from Yun-jung (Kim Ah-jung), who has misdialled when trying to call her boyfriend. Without giving him much of a chance she embarks on a raunchy attempt at Phone Sex, which leads to much embarrassment. He returns the call the next day, to express his feelings of anger towards women, and after an initial insult laden fight, suddenly start talking. Hyun-seung is upset over his breakup, and Yun-jung is stuck in a somewhat dead end relationship, where her boyfriend not only won’t commit to marriage, but is cheating on her. A bond forms between the two, able to express deep levels of conversation to the faceless person on the other end of the telephone. This distance works well for them, and they avoid meeting up, until Yun-jung is pretty much humiliated at a meal with her Boyfriend and his colleagues. The pair meet, and nearly fall straight into bed with each other, but their relationship continues, even with this added complication of mutual attraction. Then Hyun-seung’s girlfriend tries to reconcile, and Yun-jung finally gets that proposal. But the pair are not happy, leading to that confrontation at the Wedding ceremony you just know is going to happen. However, will it bring our couple properly together, or will it be a memory for new separate lives?
I really was not expected to be utterly enchanted by this film. Despite the crass title, the film is far more than just a naughty comedy. Yes, there are some frank and somewhat explicit exchanges verbally, and Shin So-yul shows her breasts a couple of times, but to be perfectly frank, that is all icing on a much tastier cake. At the core is a realistic and believable relationship between our two leads, one that is quite adult in every sense of the word. I really don’t know either from many other roles, but here they click with unexpected chemistry.
All is assisted by some interesting work around the scenes, especially with the 2 friends of Hyun-seung, who actually act like friends, even if much is done for comic relief. And yes, there are moments which are properly hilarious, as well as those quiet touching moments (my favourite is when the couple abort a one night stand to talk to each other on the telephone whilst in the same room). Maybe some of the side stories could have been explored a little more, but in this case I am happy that they just added some colour and balance to the central romantic issues.
Technically the film is pretty smart, with one or two really super moments, though luckily it really is more about the characters than flashy camerawork. Music plays an important role, but again, it is all about the characters rather than a means unto itself. It has an attractive cast, making it your usual high quality Korean film visually and aurally.
Other than the underlying subject matter, it is a fair criticism to say the film is pretty much a rom-com by numbers – unhappy couple meet, they click, they are separated and then finally realise they are right for each other. Not only that, the final(ish) act is one we have seen so many ties before, a “Graduate”-esque confrontation at a Wedding, but the film is smart enough to make this a moment of crisis rather than one of conclusion. The smart move is that the real conclusion is utterly in keeping with the nature of Hyun-seung and Yun-jung’s relationship, and that sometimes you need a break to consider things, and not simply run off on emotion and attraction.
The thing about the film is, although the underlying premise is totally hackneyed, it seriously offers something new, and not just by the more adult content on display. It is brave enough to look at the complexity of modern relationships, the angst over being 30 and not married, the occasional dichotomy of physical and emotion closeness, but doing it in a mature manner, bringing both laughs and tears.
It is fair to say, that unexpectedly, I utterly adored this movie. Yet again, I have been taught not to enjoy a book by its cover. Highly Recommended.