South Korean “Tune in for Love” is so familiar in terms of story and characters that you will clearly guess what you are going to listen and watch even before tuning in to it at the beginning. While it is fairly competent in its commendable presentation of period mood and details to be appreciated, the movie is rather deficient in case of storytelling and characterization, and I only came to observe it from the distance while not caring much about its two good-looking lead characters.
They are Mi-soo (Kim Go-eun) and Hyeon-woo (Jung Hae-in), and the movie begins with their Meet Cute moment in 1994. While Mi-soo is an adolescent girl running a small family bakery along with a family friend named Eun-ja (Kim Gook-hee), Hyeon-woo is a teenage boy who has just been released from a juvenile reformatory, and he happens to drop by Mi-soo’s bakery as looking for a certain thing for commemorating his release. Although their first encounter is pretty awkward to say the least, Hyeon-woo is eventually hired as a part-time assistant, and we gradually come to notice the growing mutual feeling between him and Mi-soo.
However, not so surprisingly, Hyeon-woo soon gets himself involved again with his several fellow juvenile delinquents, who were sent to the juvenile reformatory along with him after a very unfortunate incident at their high school. As shown from one brief flashback scene, the incident was caused by a reckless act of theirs, and they all are bitter and morose about how it has ruined their life, though the movie is rather vague about whether they feel any guilt about that irreversible consequence.
Anyway, Hyeon-woo later comes to disappear from Mi-soo’s life without any explanation, and the movie promptly moves forward to 1997. As the whole country is struck by a big financial crisis, the resulting social/economic effect comes upon Mi-soo’s small neighborhood, and we see her bakery being out of business. At least, Mi-soo manages to finish her college education mainly thanks to Eun-ja, who has been like a big sister to her for years and did not mind at all paying her college tuition instead of her.
Not long after she gets employed as a clerk at some big factory, Mi-soo happens to come across Hyeon-soo, and both of them are glad to see each other again, but, alas, it turns out that Hyeon-soo is going to begin his military service on the very next day. After spending the cozy night along with him at her small and shabby residence, she makes an e-mail account for him for their future correspondence, and I must say that I could not help but become a bit nostalgic as watching her using Window 95.
However, Mi-soo and Hyeon-soo become disconnected from each other due to a small basic mistake. Of course, they come to encounter each other again by sheer coincidence in 2000, but then, not so surprisingly, they soon get separated from each other again because of a legal trouble which Hyeon-soo inadvertently gets himself into thanks to his old friends, and that surely hurts Mi-soo a lot.
I think any sensible woman would seriously consider staying away from Hyeon-soo once and for all, but Mi-soo still finds herself attracted to him when she comes across him again in 2004. While she is working at a small but fairly successful publishing company, several film students happen to move into the upstairs, and, yes, one of them turns out to be Hyeon-soo. We soon see them spending some time with each other, and the situation seems to be more stable than before as they come to get closer to each other than before.
However, as many of you already guessed, there comes another trouble between them, and then the movie is hampered by several contrived melodramatic moments. While the part associated with Hyeon-soo’s past is rather half-baked, a subplot involved with a supporting character played by Park Hae-joon feels quite superficial, and the expected finale, which is accompanied with a certain famous real-life radio show which has often appeared throughout the film, does not work that well as merely pushing our two main characters toward the perfunctory ending.
Anyway, the two lead performers of the movie try as much as they can for filling their respective roles. Kim Go-eun, who drew our attention for the first time via her breakthrough performance in director/writer Jeong Ji-woo’s previous film “A Muse” (2012), is as charming and likable as required, and she and Jung Hae-in play with each other mostly well on the screen, though Jung’s acting is often a little too bland to compensate for his weak character. In case of several notable supporting performers in the film, they are not particularly utilized well on the whole, but the special mention must go to Kim Gook-hee, who simply steals the show as the most colorful character in the movie.
In conclusion, “Tune in for Love” is not entirely without charm and entertainment, and it will not disappoint you if you just want to watch a familiar and conventional romance drama, but I must point out to you that it is less interesting compared to several notable works in Jeong’s solid filmmaking career such as “A Muse” or “Fourth Place” (2015), a small under-appreciated gem which I belatedly came to watch a few days ago. No, I do not dislike it, but, to be frank with you, I said to myself “Thumbs down!” as walking out of the screening room, and I guess that says a lot about how I felt and thought about it.