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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Architecture 101 Review: New York Korean Film Festival

Lotte Entertainment
Architecture 101 Review
2012, 116 minutes 
Not Rated

Architecture 101 is showing tomorrow at the New York Korean Film Festival at 4:30 PM at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Peter Jay Sharp Building.  It is a romance film that tells the story of an architect, Lee Seung-min (Um Tae-woong), who is asked by a woman, Yang Seo-Yeon (Han Ga-in), to build her a house.  The woman was his first love back in college and the film flashes back and forward to show their relationship in the past and the present.

Architecture 101 is a fairly standard romance film with very good acting.  However, good acting is not enough to save a movie.  The story uses every cliché in the book, but oddly doesn't resort much to cheesy romantic music, which greatly helps the subtlety of the ending (though the ending isn't satisfying).  Architecture 101 has an over-reliance on friend-to-friend comic advice-on-romance scenes which not only add to the cliched nature of the film, but also make it more tedious.  The story of the two people in love simply isn't compelling or original enough.  In the modern age, if someone is to make a romance film, it has to feel fresh for it to work.  Look at Silver Linings Playbook.  It follows many cliches, but they work due to fresh dialogue, memorable characters, and excellent performances.  Architecture 101 has the good acting, but not the former two.  I never cared about the characters and there were no plot turns that I didn't see coming far before they came.

The acting by Um and Han is solid, however.  They have very good chemistry, as do their younger counterparts.  One thing that I have noticed about the group of Korean films I have reviewed recently is that no matter the quality of the film, the acting is always very good.  Um, Han, and cast all give heartfelt performances.  While they don't do anything special with their parts (the material doesn't allow them to), they nonetheless seem to give this movie their all and that greatly helps the watchability.  They are very likable actors.

The camerawork in this movie is fine, nothing special, save for one or two shots that are magnificent.  The score isn't anything special.  The direction is good, as director Lee Yong-joo smartly underplayed the emotions in the film.

Overall, Architecture 101 is an ordinary film that I wouldn't recommend.  It isn't by any means bad, it just isn't anything special.  

-Joshua Handler

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