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Almost Love
AKA: Young Comics


Region 3 NTSC
2-Disc Special Edition
Fantom Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English subtitles
Various Extras

Year: 2006
Director: Lee Han
Cast: Kwon Sang-Woo, Kim Ha-Neul, Lee Sang-Woo, Jang Mi-In-Ae, Park Ji-Bin, Jung Min-Ah, Jung Gyu-Su
The Skinny: Reteaming of the stars of My Tutor Friend is funny and amusing - that is, until it resorts to a semi-tragic twist to induce audience tears. Forced waterworks aside, Almost Love does enough right to make it a worthwhile star-fueled diversion.
by Kozo:

     My Tutor Friend co-stars Kwon Sang-Woo and Kim Ha-Neul go at it again in the romantic comedy Almost Love. The two play childhood friends whose connection as youth blossoms into something resembling love as adults. However, there are bumps and bruises along the way, namely other romantic partners, parallel quests to realize personal dreams, and a hideous hairdo sported by the usually dashing Kwon Sang-Woo.
     But there's a narrative reason for the crappy 'do, and it's one of the very reasons Almost Love charms. Kwon is Lee Ji-Hwan, a screwy stuntman/student whose goal in life is to be the next coming of Jackie Chan - so much so, that he'll apparently even rip off the Chanmeister's eighties-era hairdo. His childhood pal Jin Dal-Rae (Kim Ha-Neul) desires to be an actress, but she has a problem with acting in front of others, and is constantly blowing her auditions. Luckily she has supportive boyfriend Young-Hoon (Lee Sang-Woo) to brighten her days. Young-Hoon is Ji-Hwan's teammate on the Tae Kwan Do team, and is well aware of the pair's past friendship.
     However, Young-Hoon also seems to be aware of Dal-Rae and Ji-Hwan's obvious potential to be more than just friends. One of the big factors in Almost Love is how these two lifelong "friends" are obviously meant to be more than just that - and everybody around them is seemingly more aware of it than they are. The main conflict occurs when Dal-Rae and Ji-Hwan begin seeing other people, and then subsequently begin to bicker. Their animated banter is supposed to be proof of their repressed feelings, and the screenplay and the actors are funny enough to sell the loaded screwball premise. Kwon Sang-Woo and Kim Ha-Neul are a winning comic pair, and the chemistry they create is enough to make them worth rooting for - bad hairstyles or not.
     Still, the conflict goes away - and by that, we mean that it basically disappears. Ji-Hwan and Dal-Rae's sparring and subsequent glimmers of affection is entertaining stuff, and more than enough to make up for the lack of forward direction that the film exhibits. After minor fights, the two make up and continue to pursue their dreams, which we observe in heavy narrative detail. Dal-Rae gets her big acting break, while Ji-Hwan gets a chance at a big movie stunt. It's interesting to watch, but the underlying feeling is always, "So? What's going to happen next?" Almost Love isn't slow, but it seems aimless in that it doesn't do much more than slowly draw its fated characters together with occasional breaks for fun comedy. If one considers the Korean Cinema Factor, then the other shoe has to drop sometime.
     Which it does, and man, does it suck. Not to discredit the Korean drama formula, but too many Korean comedies, romances, and probably instructional videos seem to lean on a surprise misfortune or disease to juice up the third act. It definitely works, because it makes characters face things they probably would not have before, thus bringing their hopes, dreams, and desires into sharp focus. The narrative benefit is twofold: not only do you get a tear-jerking event, but the characters have to face everything about their lives, leading to even more loaded drama. What were tears of laughter become tears of sadness, and if you buy it, you've once again been touched and/or manipulated by the filmmakers. Congratulations: you're a puppet.
     Still, those are larger creative issues that shouldn't necessarily detract from this film. If one were to really separate themselves from the overuse of a semi-tragic twist and truly evaluate Almost Love on its own merits, then the verdict would be a resounding, "Not bad at all." Almost Love gets a pass thanks its winning characters and amusing first half, such that the eventual fall into melodrama is softened. The actors deserve plenty of the credit; Kim Ha-Neul is naturally funny and winning, and Kwon Sang-Woo inhabits his childish character and crappy hairdo with comic charm. The two are so likable that they can sell the melodrama even when it becomes cloying and more than a little drawn out. As a movie, Almost Love is light and practically forgettable, but as a celebrity showcase it's money in the bank. Sometimes the stars make the movie. (Kozo 2006)

 Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen