From left: Actors Won Ji-an, Jo Joon-young, Lee Kwang-soo, Go Sung-hee, Kim Young-kwang, director Kwak Jae-yong, Han Ji-min, Lee Dong-wook, Won Jin-ah, Kang Ha-neul, Lim Yoon-ah, Lee Hye-young, Jung Jin-young pose after a press conference Monday at CGV Yongsan in central Seoul. (CJ ENM)
It is not the end of the year without a romance film about multiple couples’ Christmas and New Year holidays. Last year there was “New Year Blues” directed by Hong Ji-young and this year we have romance film master Kwak Jae-yong’s “A Year-End Medley.”
“It does not feel like Christmas or New Year holiday anymore due to COVID-19. I want to recreate the holiday vibe that we used to enjoy,” Kwak said during a press conference held on Monday at CGV Yongsan in central Seoul. “In our film, there is no COVID-19 nor pandemic.”
Kwak’s new movie features an ensemble cast of 14 actors and tells love stories that intertwine between characters who are staying or working at hotel Emros.
Anything that audiences might need to feel the holiday vibe is all in the film.
“A Year-End Medley” begins with singer-songwriter Leekang (Seo Kang-joon) in Santa custom singing a Christmas carol with a group of people in a studio without wearing a mask.
It features props like Christmas trees and decorations here and there and scenes of people gathered together for the New Year‘s Eve countdown.
During the press conference, the director added that the film aims to include both relatable and dreamy elements.
“I tried to show my style through the story of people staying in the hotel. I tried portraying (situations of) people in diverse (economic) classes and also create a story that is like a fairy-tale,” Kwak said.
However, it seemed like he had difficulties balancing the two elements, as most of the stories that were introduced in “A Year-End Medley” were cliched and obvious.
Hotel Emros’ housekeeper Yi-young magically meets her prince charming the hotel CEO Young-jin (Lee Dong-wook) and falls in love. Their story follows the same plot of the Cinderella story so often shown in Korean romance dramas.
There are many realistic conflicts and relatable difficulties introduced at the beginning of the movie. Jae-young (Kang Ha-neul) constantly fails to pass the civil service exam, while So-jin (Han Ji-min) struggles with the news of her best friend Seung-hyo (Kim Young-kwang) getting married because she secretly has a crush on him. Star singer-songwriter’s manager Sang-hoon (Lee Kwang-soo) has a hard time asking his artist Leekang to renew his contract with him, as the star has better offers from other agencies.
Korean director Kwak Jae-yong’s “A Year-End Medley” (CJ ENM)
Nonetheless, these problems are all resolved easily and idealistically in the movie.
Also, rookie actor Jo Joon-young, who stars as a high school athlete in love with the most popular girl (Won Ji-an) in school, often shows his inexperience in the film. This is Jo’s first commercial film debut.
Despite these defaults, the movie is still watchable.
The rookie’s amateurishness is offset through natural and witty performances of veteran actors like Jung Jin-young and Lee Hye-young. Big-name actors like Han Ji-min, Lee Dong-wook, Kang Ha-neul, Im Yoon-ah and Lee Kwang-soo also help make the unbelievable story somewhat believable.
Kwak’s new film is being released simultaneously in theaters and via CJ ENM streaming platform Tving on Wednesday.
By Song Seung-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org