Perhaps Love (2021) ☆☆☆(3/4): It’s complicated among them

South Korean comedy film “Perhaps Love” caught me off guard for several solid moments for laughs and chuckles. Cheerfully hopping among a number of different colorful comic characters, the movie frequently shines with considerable wit and humor, and then it also somehow generates some genuine poignancy while never interrupting its lightweight overall tone.

The early part of the movie mainly focuses on how things have not been that good for Hyeon (Ryu Seung-ryong.) at present. While he has been regarded as one of the most prominent writers in South Korea since he published a very successful novel several years ago, Hyeon has not written any book yet after that novel, and that has certainly frustrated not only him but also Soon-mo (Kim Hee-won), Hyeon’s publisher who has also been his best friend.

And then there comes an unexpected change into Hyeon’s life. When he happens to drop by the house of a gay writer friend of his at one night, he meets Yoo-jin (Mu Jin-sung), a young aspiring writer who has lived with that gay writer for a while. Although their first encounter is rather brief, Yoo-jin subsequently comes to Hyeon’s apartment, and Hyeon is flabbergasted when Yoo-jin later reveals to Hyeon that he has had a crush on Hyeon for years. As a married heterosexual dude, Hyeon is not particularly interested in responding to Yoo-jin’s drunken words, but then Yoo-jin keeps approaching to him as one of students attending his college class, and Hyeon does not know what to do about this rather tricky circumstance – especially after Yoo-jin gives him a short story too good to be ignored.

Meanwhile, we also get to know the other messy side of Hyeon’s private life. As his second wife and their young daughter have been absent for last several months, he has felt rather lonely, so he drops by the residence of his ex-wife Mi-ae (Oh Na-ra), who has still corresponded with him mainly due to their problematic adolescent son Seong-kyeong (Sung Yoo-bin). Although they try to look like they are cool about each other, it does not take much time for Hyeon and his ex-wife to sense the return of their old feelings, and that accordingly leads to one of the funniest moments in the film.

In case of Seong-kyeong, this troubled kid surely has lots of emotional issues too much for any other adolescent kid around his age, and his vulnerable emotional state happens to draw the attention of Jeong-won (Lee Yoo-young), a young woman who happens to live at a residence across from Seong-kyeong’s. As spending more time with this young woman, Seong-kyeong finds himself more attracted to her, and he eventually decides to go further when his mother is going to be absent for next several days.

While he is supposed to check on Seong-kyeong in the meantime, Hyeon only finds himself getting more involved with Yoo-jin. As they come to work very closely with each other on expanding and developing Yoo-jin’s original short story, Hyeon makes it clear to Yoo-jin that he is simply having a professional collaboration with Yoo-jin without any romantic feeling, but Yoo-jin does not step back at all as showing more affection and admiration toward Hyeon, and Hyeon comes to feel more conflicted as finding himself not only rejuvenated by their collaboration but also caring a lot about Yoo-jin’s feelings.

Deftly juggling its several plotlines, the movie smoothly moves back and forth between comedy and drama, and I particularly appreciate the precise comic timing of a certain key sequence. We already get a pretty good idea of what will happen among several main characters, but we cannot help but tickled more and more thanks to the precise coming timing between the performers on the screen, and then there comes a payoff moment much more uproarious and hilarious than expected.

In addition, we also come to like and care more about the main characters of the film. While Hyeon and Yoo-jin’s strained relationship is depicted with enough sensitivity and gravitas, Mi-ae and Soon-mo come to show more of each own human depth along the story, and the same thing can be said about Seong-kyeong and Jeong-won. It goes without saying that Jeong-won is simply having a fun with attracting Seong-kyeong’s attention, but, not so surprisingly, she does care a bit about Seong-kyeong as reflected by a brief moment later in the story.

Although it comes to lose some of its comic momentum as reaching to the resolution during the last act, director Jo Eun-ji, who has been mainly known for her acting work in a number of notable South Korean films including “Forever the Moment” (2007), keeps things rolling under her competent direction, and she also draws the effortless ensemble performance from her main cast members. While Ryu Seung-ryong steadily holds the center as required, Oh Na-ra, Kim Hee-won, Lee Yoo-young, Sung Yoo-bin, and Mu Jin-sung bring life and personality to their respective characters, and Oh Jung-se, Choi Hee-jin, and Ryu Hyun-kyung are also effective in their small supporting roles.

Overall, “Perhaps Love” is one of the funniest South Korean films of this year, and Jo demonstrates well another side of her talent here just like Kim Yun-seok recently did in “Another Child” (2018). She certainly makes a fairly good feature film debut, and it will be interesting to see whether she will rise more as another notable female filmmaker in South Korea.

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