MY DEAR DESPERADO A.K.A. GANGSTER LOVER [NAE KKANGPAE GATEUN AEIN | NAE GGANG-PAE GA-EUL AE-IN | 내 깡패 같은 애인]

http://mykkang.co.kr/

KOREA 2010  Directed by: Kim Kwang-Sik Written by: Kim Kwang-Sik Cast: Park Joong-Hoon, Jeong Yu-Mi, Park Won-Sang, Jeong Woo-Hyeok, Jeong In-Gi, Min Kyeong-Jin, Kwon-Se-In, Lim Ki-Hong, Yang Eun-Yong, Kim Keon

A young woman, Se-Jin, leaves her rural hometown for Seoul and a career in the IT business, all against the will of her conservative father. Soon after she got a position in an IT firm, the company goes broke and closes own, with Se-Jin losing her job and moving into a new apartment. There she meets Dong-Chul, a small-time gangster who lives next door and initially behaves like a real jerk. But the thing they have in common is that they are both jobless (or kind of) and on a losing streak, so they start hanging out after a while, getting closer and more acquainted with each other. When Se-Jin is being harassed while applying for a new job, Dong-Chul pays the guy a visit, beating him up badly, after which he ends up on a police station first, and later in bed with Se-Jin.

As if that wasn’t difficult enough already, one day her dad insists she sees him back home, and as he must not know about her unemployment Dong-Chul has to pretend to be her boyfriend. The plan works just a bit too well: her dad wants them to get married immediately, and they have no choice but to pretend that they do. But an unfortunate incident ruins the charade and leads to Se-Jin and Dong-Chul parting ways. Se-Jin‘s father wants her to stay away from Seoul once and for all, but Se-Jin goes for one last interview, not knowing that she’s about to run into Dong-Chul once again at this crucial point of her life.

I understand that for commercial reasons they made this all look like your average Korean RomCom (just look at the poster artwork), but MY DEAR DESPERADO is anything like it. It is a charming film though, with a great cast in an opposites attract / love at second sight scenario that both, the fabulous Park Jong-Hoon and Jeong Yu-Mi, master with ease without ever allowing the movie to lower its fairly high standards. MY DEAR DESPERADO is warm, funny and irresistibly human: united we stand, and united we fall is the motto as Se-Jin and Dong-Chul take on the rest of the world that is made of crooks and cowards.

The script is peppered with (more or less subtle) criticism of Korean society and the way things have always been, and beyond the façade of an entertaining and atypical boy-and-girl-next-door movie we find subtexts about emancipation, the need for the modernization of society, about its current double-standards and old-fashioned expectations towards roles, as well as about the economic downturn.

Looking at it from the angle of the economy MY DEAR DESPERADO is like a pendant to ATTACK THE GAS STATION (much more than its own sequel was). Essentially, DESPERADO is a recession movie, reflecting people’s changing lifestyles and conditions. A large part of its momentum comes from how people deal with change, how they adapt (or not). On the other hand it’s interesting to see how much the movie is driven by its female lead. The role of Se-Jin is one of the few in Korean cinema that is truly independent, doesn’t comply to male expectations and is rewarded for her stance at the end of the film (while usually we’d see some sort of repercussion at some point). That’s a rare thing, and I must applaud Kim Kwang-Sik for not compromising when writing the role and delivering a fine discourse on emancipation.

MY DEAR DESPERADO also shows a lot of subtle irony in dealing with organized crime and Korea’s widespread gangster sub-culture (I loved the valet parking joke), just as much as Mr. Kim has an eye for the details of everyday existence that we mostly overlook, but which in fact can tell us more about the way things work than scientific analysis. This is also what sets MY DEAR DESPERADO apart from other films with similar concept or subject: the film is scrutinizing life and absorbs a relevant essence. Its idea is not to be a “funny film” or a “romantic comedy”, but to tell us about men and women, about winners and losers, about dreams and reality.

While MY DEAR DESPERADO is not easily fitting genre labels, it rises above respective categories as a work that largely defies stereotyped thinking, and by doing so brings a lot of credibility to the table. It may not exactly be a political movie, nor an independent film; but it’s a great observer of life as it happens.

J.

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One Response to “MY DEAR DESPERADO A.K.A. GANGSTER LOVER [NAE KKANGPAE GATEUN AEIN | NAE GGANG-PAE GA-EUL AE-IN | 내 깡패 같은 애인]”

  1. KIMCHI FLAVOR: MY DEAR DESPERADO a.k.a. MY GANGSTER LOVER [NAE KHANGPAE KATEUN AEIN | 내 깡패 같은 애인] « GONIN MOVIE BLOG Says:

    […] FIND THE FULL REVIEW HERE! – – – – – – – – – – – – – What happens when a small-time […]

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