Starring: Eom Tae-woong, Han Ga-in, Lee Je-hoon
Director: Lee Yong-joo
Running Time: 118 mins
Architecture 101 is a South Korean film about a young man who falls in love with a girl in his first year class at university. Years later, the two are reunited as the woman tasks him with building her a dream house by the sea.
A strange fact about this film: it’s a romantic drama whose main audience when first released in South Korea was predominantly male. That’s because it relies heavily on the nostalgia about young loves and such like, as well as its less melodramatic portrayal of the relationship that the two former lovers have when they reunite in their adulthood.
However, the film as a whole is pretty good. I was definitely engaged and entertained from start to finish by a successfully heartfelt and nostalgic romance story, the performances were good, it had a light and pleasant atmosphere to it, and although I could have maybe gone for a little more emotional intrigue in the latter half rather than just total reliance on nostalgia, I thought Architecture 101 was a good film.
Let’s start with how the story is set out. A trend in many romantic dramas is to lay out the story in a non-linear format, and whilst this doesn’t go completely non-linear, it switches back frequently between the university days of the two, and the present, where the woman comes to the man to help build her a new house.
Does it work? Well, although you’ve seen the story a million times before, the contrast of the characters’ mutual feelings between the past and present did provide some intrigue. On the one hand, you’ve got the blissful young love in the past, but then whenever we’re in the present, there appears to be tension between the two, so a lot of the intrigue is unpacking what happened in the end of their relationship at university that has made for tension in the present day.
That’s the part of the story that worked, and made better by the plot layout, but I do just have to say that the lack of proper emotional drama here was a little disappointing. As I said earlier, this isn’t as melodramatic as a lot of Hollywood chick flicks, but sometimes a good bit of heightened romance and emotion can give a film a bit of passion and life. Here, there’s a little too much reliance on sweet childhood nostalgia to make you engrossed, and it’s just missing some properly exciting emotion on the side.
The performances weren’t too bad either. The actors who play the younger versions of the characters were fine, but nothing particularly special, but I was more impressed by the adult actors Eom Tae-woong and Han Ga-in, who did bring a greater degree of realistic emotion in some scenes, largely towards the tail end of the movie, which was good to see.
Overall, Architecture 101 is a good film. It’s a simple romantic drama that works well by playing on childhood nostalgia, whilst also presenting some intrigue and unpredictability with regards to how the characters’ relationship ends up. We’ve seen it before, but it’s still a good watch in the end, and that’s why I’m giving this a 7.5.