Soo-wan (played by Kim Ha-neul) is a college-aged tutor who crankily works to finance her education. Ji-hoon (played by kwon Sang-woo) is a high school student who's been held back three years because he's been too busy doing cool stuff like getting into fights and partying. Together, they study. And I guess eventually they also fight crime, via a last minute plot thread that kind of pops out of nowhere.
Don't expect the plot to get any more coherent than that. "My Tutor Friend" is less an actual movie as it is a series of anecdotes involving the basic comedic premise of a young man and woman constantly fighting each other as a kind of surrogate behavior intended to replace an actual romance. While technically this trend was probably initiated by "My Sassy Girl", the general popularity of "My Tutor Friend" is still a significant point on the cultural line that eventually led to "My Love from the Star" and "It's Okay, That's Love".
Because of this, "My Tutor Friend" actually manages to be kind of embarassing in just how crude it is. There's no real story arc and very little character development. The process of how Ji-hoon actually becomes a (somewhat) better student is largely skipped over. And it can't be because of romantic interest in Soo-wan, because that particular plot point only shows up after her rather silly dance scene.
Ironically the cruder jokes are the ones that manage to come off better. My favorite by a long shot was what a drunken Soo-wan ends up doing in the rain. Aside from that, though, nothing really comes off as all that memorable. I guess there's...the hang-gliding scene? That was kind of cute. Ji-hoon's little brother Se-hoon (played by Uhm Sung-mo) has a few funny reaction shots. And there are plenty of fights, although none of them are really particularly funny in their own right. Just well choregraphed.
If there's anything I can write in the film's favor, "My Tutor Friend" is definitely a well-produced, quality production. Even the computer graphics, while obviously built from technology we consider primitive today, are integrated reasonably well into the comedic interplay. The performances are fairly good, and it's easy to see how Kim Ha-neul and kwon Sang-woo were able to transition into more impressive modern day careers.
Taken in terms of film, though, "My Tutor Friend" is just dated. At its best moments, watching the movie in the modern day mostly just serves as a reminder of how far Korean romantic comedies have come since then- or for that matter, how they distinguish themselves today in the modern marketplace. Worldwide the genre's in a pretty bad spot, but at least with the Korean versions there's actually charisma and chemistry between the lead actors. This can go a long way to ameliorating flaws in the script. Be that as it may, there's not enough of that here to really justify watching "My Tutor Friend" in a modern context, save for curiosity's sake.
Review by William Schwartz
Available on DVD from YESASIA
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Tutor Friend""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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