[HanCinema's Film Review] "My Tutor Friend Lesson II" + DVD Giveaway
By William Schwartz | Published on
Junko (played by Lee Chung-ah) is a young Japanese woman of some Korean ancestry who lives in Hokkaido. She had a massive crush on Woo-seong (played by Yang Jin-woo) when he stayed at her home for awhile as an exchange student. So naturally, when it's time for Junko to go to college, she heads off to Seoul to try and find him. Junko boards at a traditional Korean guest house, where she meets Jong-man (played by Park Ki-woong) whose temperament is a tad cruder than Junko was expecting, considering everyone knows how cool and awesome Korean men are.
If nothing else, "My Tutor Friend Lesson II" is certainly a public service announcement on properly tempering your expectations when it comes to Korea. That much is obvious from the production choices- the story is an obvious reference on the popularity of South Korean cultural products in Japan at the time the movie was released. The original "My Tutor Friend" was one such product, although aside from the title and the tutoring the films lack substantial similarities.
A pretty big chunk of the humor, after all, just takes the form of linguistic jokes about the sheer inscrutability of many Korean words. George (played by Julian Quintart), is in the movie for the sole purpose of giving as the absurd visual reference of a Westerner fluently speaking in obscure Korean street slang. I am assuming this slang at least made sense ten years ago when "My Tutor Friend Lesson II" came out, since as far as I could tell it was all just nonsense.
So "My Tutor Friend Lesson II" is a little dated. That much is not surprising. Really, nothing about the movie is all that surprising. Woo-seong ends up being a glorified extra, so there's never even so much as a pretense that the story can end in any way except with Junko and Jong-man becoming a couple. It's fortunate that they're so cute together. Junko will be disgusted with Jong-man one minute and eager to please the next, which creates constant variation in tone, allowing for a wide variety of character based jokes.
The story slows down a lot, though, once it's time for the more serious plot points to get in, because while aggressive Junko and naïve Junko have their moments, dramatic serious Junko is just not very interesting by comparison. For most of the second half Junko doesn't even have much motivation. Instead, she gets bogged down in Jong-man's backstory of being a boxer. While Jong-man's character arc does conclude somewhat inventively, it was nonetheless a bit of an irrelevant cliché in the first place.
There are definitely enough funny moments in "My Tutor Friend Lesson II" to justify a feature length film, it's just, a ninety minute film would have been a much more streamlined result than the somewhat bloated movie we actually have. All the same, the performances are pretty good, and the primer on Korean culture is, outdated slang notwithstanding, still mostly accurate. It could have been a lot worse.
Review by: William Schwartz
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. He also has a substack at williamschwartz.substack.com where he discusses the South Korean film industry in broader terms and takes suggestions for future movies to review.