The romance genre has presented our fantasies about love and a romantic partner throughout the years in a glossy manner. With K-dramas, the gaze becomes a significant factor in making them more realized from a female perspective since many of them are written by female writers. Even predictable romance dramas can be rewarding. Streaming on Netflix, ‘20th Century Girl’ is a romantic comedy movie that works with the genre cliches in a similarly refreshing manner. It is a South-Korean film, written and directed by Bang Woo-ri.
20th Century Girl (2022) Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis:
The narrative of 20th Century Girl unfolds primarily in 1999, when the protagonist of the film – Na Bo-ra (Kim Yoo-jung) is a school student along with her closest friend, Yeon-du (Roh Yoon-seo). For her critical heart surgery, Yeon-du needs to go to the USA. Yet, right before leaving, she comes across a boy named Baek Hyun-jin, with whom she falls in love while knowing only his name. Since she won’t be there for a while, she asks Bo-ra to keep a tap on this person and to know more about him for her.
The next day, Bo-ra bumps into him on her bus ride to their school and then starts spying on him. She keeps sharing all the details she finds, with Yeon-du, over email. She tells her about his best friend – Poong Woon-ho. She decides to befriend him to know more and more about Hyun-jin. She attempts to acquire his contact number when he calls back home from school but doesn’t succeed. Somehow, she manages to find it through the phonebook and calls him. But Woon-ho picks up the phone and pretends to be Hyun-jin.
The next day, he confronts her about it and to get Hyun-jin’s pager number, asks her to help him with a blue film for him. While she brings it to the school, her teacher somehow gets hold of it and punishes her for the same. She gets embarrassed and he finds a moment of amusement. While she tries to find more personal details about Hyun-jin for her friend, Woon-ho starts falling for her. In a brawl that he finds himself getting into, she helps him out and all three of them run away together. She gets her leg bandaged due to the same accident.
Then, the next day, he offers her a ride, and we get a glimpse into her being romantically interested in him. Yet when he takes her for dinner and mentions his interest in her – for having saved him the previous night, she gets awkward, since she was courting him just for Yeon-du. She runs away from the restaurant and then Woon-ho comes to put a bandage on her wounded foot and calms her pain. Seeing his sensitive side, she gets instantly charmed by him. During their game practice, Hyun-jin keeps trying to persuade her, but she tries to make him uninterested in her through different antics.
Later, in their hostel, when she gets awful drunk, Woon-ho saves her from their warden While looking directly into his eyes, she starts falling for him. That’s when their relationship begins with scenes that showcase its gradual blooming. He takes her to his house, plucks out delicious plums from his backyard for her, and shares his life story. His parents divorced when he was young and living in New Zealand. That’s when his brother, who lives with their mother in New Zealand, and he got separated, while their father moved to South Korea with him.
While both Woon-ho and Hyun-jin fall for her over the period, Yeon-du shows up from the USA. During their conversation, she realizes that she thought Woon-ho was Hyun-jin all this time and had actually fallen in love with Woon-ho. That becomes a conflict for Bo-ra since they have emotionally closer by now but revealing their romantic involvement could break Yeon-du’s heart who just had serious heart surgery. She decides to sacrifice her joy for her friend and starts avoiding Woon-ho in any way she can. However, it isn’t easier for him, who is in love with her.
On a particularly rainy night, when she calls him from a payphone (so that Yeon-du wouldn’t know she is contacting Woon-ho), she apologizes for making a mistake in the past referring to their mutual attraction. He then shares a letter with her, professing his love for her from even before her search for Hyun-jin started. Later, when all four of them go out to an amusement park together, Woon-ho cannot control his feeling for Bo-ra and rushes to get on a rollercoaster ride with her. Hyun-jin reveals to her that they both in fact are in love with each other. Later, when she speaks with Bo-ra, she tells her that she shouldn’t have abandoned her love out of care for her (Yeon-du). However, it also hurts her to let go of her desires, which puts a distance between these two friends.
20th Century Girl (2022) ‘Netflix’ Review:
A tenderly crafted romance drama despite the cliches
Romantic comedies have been both a topic of interest and ridicule over the years. It is ridiculed by those who find it to be a candy-glossed version of reality. It is praised for its heartwarming rendition of romantic fantasies that feel wonderful to witness on a silver screen. Bang Woo-ri’s ‘20th Century Girl’ is a bit of both. However, what makes it hard to take your eyes off is more than just some attractive falling in and out of love with one another. It is the gentle handling while unfolding the parts of the characters’ psyches that makes its charm, impossible to resist.
While showing the romantic struggles of a girl in her mid-teens, it does use several cliches related to the genre. You see a girl falling head over heels for a person for simply being smitten by seeing him emerge with gentle sunrays caressing his body. You find two guys fighting for winning over a girl, and you see people staying true to their first romance till eternity. Yet, the film celebrates these cliches wholeheartedly. For many parts of the film, the screenplay pretty much puts its heart on its sleeves!
The direction conveys the moments when its characters have butterflies in the stomach, with tenderness. It does not let go of the compassion towards its characters even if their romance is not mature. It celebrates immaturity itself in a lighthearted manner.
The protagonist cannot let go of her first love and grapples with losing any semblance of contact with him. They get just a tiny window of time to be together and hardly get a chance to realize the potential of their relationship. That very aspect of grief of losing out on a life they wished to have, is what makes 20th Century Girl soul-stirring. Despite its candy-flossed visuals, there is a lot of heart put into carving out this part of their story that brings the cliched romance to the level of an affecting one.
20th Century Girl Movie Ending, Explained:
Do Bo-ra and Woon-ho ever meet again?
Despite the chances of Woon-ho and Bo-ra getting back together seems to have gotten better, he gets a call from his mother inviting him back to New Zealand. His father also suggests he do the same, which leaves him with no other option. On the night before he is supposed to leave, Bo-ra’s brother falls sick and gets hospitalized. So, even when Woon-ho comes to her house in the hopes of meeting her for one last time, he needs to go to the foreign land, alone and disappointed.
The next morning, at school, Yeon-du reveals to her about his departure and beckons her to rush to the train station right away. Bo-ra and Woon-ho manage to meet for a few moments and their farewell ends up being a tearjerker. Over the years, she keeps trying to find traces of him or get in touch with him. Yet, no matter how many times she tries, she cannot get hold of him. Suddenly an invitation received at her parent’s place from her hometown informs her about an art exhibition.
When she visits it, she sees all her endearing school memories flashing before her eyes. That’s where she meets Hyun-jin, who informs having found the footage hidden by Woon-ho and about him having passed away. He mentions all the footage indicating his undying love for her, which is what made him (Hyun-jin) put on the exhibition. Through the sentimental footage of Woon-ho speaking directly with her, they finally manage to meet one another in the 21st century, the way they promised before their departure.
20TH CENTURY GIRL (2022) TRAILER
20TH CENTURY GIRL (2022) MOVIE LINKS: IMDB, WIKIPEDIA
20TH CENTURY GIRL (2022) MOVIE CAST: KIM YOO-JEONG, BYEON WOO-SEOK, PARK JUNG-WOO, ROH YOON-SEO