A RomCom Throwback to the 90’s Filled with K-Drama Moments
Newly released on Netflix, 20th Century Girl is a trope-filled Korean romance movie riding the party-like-its-1999 train. Bursting with dial-up internet, Casio-reminiscent watches, the incessant pager/payphone connection and piles of oversized clothes, 20th Century Girl whisks us back to a time when Nostradamus’ predictions and a sense of uncertainty were bugging everyone out.
And though Y2K was the worry of businesses around the world, for some it was secrets with your foreva home skillet and a hope for romance if they survived the New Year. For boy-crazy Yeon-du, all she can think about is her new love-at-first-sight, even as she’s jetted from Korea to the US for planned heart surgery rather than heading to high school with her friends.
Armed with only a name, friend-for-life Bo-ra, who doesn’t really get the whole crush thing, promises to track Hyun-jin, reporting every detail so Yeon-du can catch up by email from her recovery room. Bo-ra is committed to creating an experience as if Yeon-du hadn’t missed a thing.
In a film that feels very much like a tightened-up K-drama, we sneak around with Bo-ra, hunting for titbits about Hyun-jin. Fully focused on the result, she’s not above embarrassing herself to get the goods all in the name of friendship. And as she’s not particularly into romance herself, what could go wrong, right?
Writer/Director Bang Woo-ri’s debut feature film brings the coming of age magic in what starts a little ‘we’ve seen this all before’ but quickly transforms into an engaging watch with twists mixed among the cliches. Paired with the silly-yet-somehow plausible plot (think back to your high school days, peeps) it’s Bo-ra who pulls us in, feeling exactly like your BFF.
Led by former child star, now veteran actress Kim Yoo-jung (Lovers of the Red Sky, Backstreet Rookie, Love in the Moonlight) as Bo-ra, one can’t help but root for the stumbly tom-boy as she tip-toes, takes notes and collates her daily findings, clacking on her old-skool desktop.
Byeon Woo-Seok (Record of Youth, Moonshine) is Poong Woon-ho, the helpful informant and best mate to target Baek Hyun-jin played by Park Jung-woo (Fly High Butterfly, Hospital Playlist). Much of the first half centres on Bo-ra tracking Hyun-jin with the help of Woon-ho, ever extracting details for her dossier.
Apart from an early scene naming her crush, we’re joined midway through by a recovered Kim Yeon-do played by Roh Yoon-seo (Our Blues).
Like so many history-based movies, 20th Century Girl starts in the future, giving you a shade of foreshadowing. But as Bo-ra’s memories of the past are triggered, we too zip to 1999 and forget what we’ve already learned.
Whilst K-drama can be pretty formulaic, Korean film often offers more surprises. Without giving anything away, it’s all sewn together at the end nicely with the mystery solved.
If you’re seeking a sweet distraction during yet another season of turmoil, this one’s the bomb!
Read More: 20th Century Girl Ending Explained
Verdict - 8/10