In 2005, rowdy yet well-meaning South Korean teenager Woo-yeon (played by Kim Young-kwang) is living in Gangreung when he becomes smitten with Seung-hee (played by Park Bo-young), a spunky transfer student. "On Your Wedding Day" chronicles their love story through 2005 and 2007 and 2012, before finally ending on a twist in 2018- Seung-hee is getting married, just not to Woo-yeon.
How can an epic love story have a happy ending when the main couple don't even end up together? Let's start off with the word epic. "On Your Wedding Day" is, in romantic comedy terms, a marathon. Any of the four different eras could be a fully-fledged movie on its own. They all have strong, engaging storylines. Granted, alone none of them are particularly innovative or original. All have been done before.
It's the combination that sets "On Your Wedding Day" apart. Woo-yeon gets an idea of what to do with his life only because he separated from Seung-hee. Even if Woo-yeon's initial motivation is rather ignoble, we can visibly see Woo-yeon bloom into a promising athlete through his college years. Woo-yeon's further mellowing out in the final two sections show him finally turning into an adult who has fully harnessed his aggressive tendencies to constructive ends.
That's obvious because Woo-yeon is the perspective character. Even so, Seung-hee's development is even more profound and relatable. We see a girl who is not surrounded with ideal male figures come to see in Woo-yeon an idea of what healthy masculinity looks like. Even as Seung-hee stumbles through one explicitly bad decision, we still see flowering confidence in her spirit- which includes, when necessary, telling Woo-yeon no as explicitly as possible.
Told through obvious retrospect, "On Your Wedding Day" doesn't expect us to take sides. Characters are right for the wrong reasons and wrong for the right reasons. As Woo-yeon so well expresses during the climax, it's all a matter of timing. This leads to a beautiful conclusion where Woo-yeon finally puts his relationship with Seung-hee in full perspective, and realizes that the end of their story isn't what matters, but rather how they changed each other for the better on the way.
In order for this story to work Kim Young-kwang and Park Bo-young have to turn in stellar performances- and thankfully, these two are up to the task. Woo-yeon and Seung-hee are constantly learning, and we can see the most minute changes as the characters mature. Incidentally, the movie has some really great comedic setpieces on these lines- mostly having to do with sex, and the unfortunate incorrect assumptions teenage boys are likely to make thanks to the Internet.
But then there's great subtle gags too, like the big sign at the police station that emphasizes the importance of believing citizens while the actual police officers...do nothing of the sort. Minor cultural, era-related, and even regional jokes create a startlingly complete picture of South Korean society over the last fifteen years. "On Your Wedding Day" is an all-around excellent movie. Don't be put off by the length- see it in parts if you have to.
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.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "On Your Wedding Day""
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