Kim Jin yeong's latest film "Clash of the Families" (previously called "Dangerous Meeting") has been enjoying a fair amount of box office success this month. The comedy drama has just broken the 2 million admissions mark and is set to be the second highest grossing Korean film of the year thus far.
The slightly effeminate cartoonist Hyun-joon (Song Sae-byeok) and daddy's little girl Da-hong (Lee Si-young) are in love. The problem is that their opposing family backgrounds put a hold on their marriage plans as fathers from both sides refuse to stand down and put aside their deep-seated regionalism. Hyun-joon is a Jeolla man (from the liberal Honam region) and Da-hong from the more conservative southern region of Yeongnam (North and South Gyeongsang). This is a regional conflict that dates back to the 60s when the government's development programs where largely neglecting the Honam area and, instead, focused on Seoul.
Two very proud and stubborn men that strongly express their disapproval of the couple's desire represent the heads of each household. Yeong-gwang (Baek Yoon-sik) is Da-hong's shrewd and judgemental father whose bright career in baseball was smashed when Se-dong (played by Kim Eung-soo), from Jeolla, caused a serious eye injury when he was in high school. In turn, Se-dong was forced to abandon his hopes for a career in baseball due a retaliatory leg injury he sustained. Their pure hatred for each has fermented over the years into a displaced aversion for the other's hometown. The two fathers, however, are not immediately aware that their offspring are deeply in love.
Hyun-joon heads down to Yeongnam and meets Da-hong's family in the hopes the he can woo them before revealing the truth behind his family background. It all gets messy and soon everyone's cards are on the table and both families are forced to confront each other.
What ensues is a string of comedic encounters between the couple and their families as they attempt to gain the blessing of the others father. The majority of the film takes place when Hyun-joon visits Da-hong's family. This "fish-out-of-water"-style involves a number of comedic references to the difference in regional dialects and a lot of it might be lost on non-Koreans. The film does, however, contain plenty of contextual and non-verbal cues that ensure that you won't miss a beat of the humour if your Korean isn't up to scratch.
"Clash of the Families" is light comedy that doesn't attempt or claim to break new ground. It's a Korean take on star-crossed lovers handled quite safety. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it's not great either. The film is just under two 2 hours (118min to be exact) but I found myself wanting out about 15 or 20 minutes before I actually was. The acting was sound and I particularly enjoyed Song Sae-byeok performance (as he seems to be building on his likeable character from the "Cyrano Agency") as well as Da-hong's mother Choon-ja (played by Kim Soo-mi), who has a few skeletons in her closet. That all being said the film is set to be one of the big hits of 2011 and we will have to wait and see if any of the summer blockbusters can trump the spew of successful comedies and dramas released thus far.
-Christopher J. Wheeler
Please feel free to comment on this review. Discussions are welcomed!
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