Starring: Jo Seong-soo, Lee In-sik, Bae Yong-sam
Director: Kim Kil-in
Running Time: 105 mins
They Met On The Taedong River is a North Korean film about the story of a romance that blossoms on a cruise through the great Taedong River, and the resulting complications that arise when the two families end up coming together afterwards.
While it manages to provide a very simple and often sweet and light-hearted experience, They Met On The Taedong River is an exceptionally slow, muddled and more often than not boring affair. Despite a potentially entertaining central story, the film squanders its chances with a plot that takes the characters round and round in circles, offering nothing particularly engrossing in the way of story development.
However, let’s start on the bright side. As unenthralling as the film as a whole is, I can say that it does have a light and bright enough atmosphere to make it all seem a little less dull. Starting off strongly with a fun atmosphere aboard the cruise ship that follows the course of the Taedong, and filling the opening act with songs, bright costumes and some fun humour, there are a good few moments that can make you smile.
But that’s unfortunately not quite enough to make a good film. As nice and smiley as some of the film is, the majority of it is all over the place, not really following a simple and coherent enough story structure to grab you from start to finish.
The biggest problem for me is undoubtedly the pacing. In similar fashion to the first half of Titanic, the film moves at as slow a pace as the ship seems to on screen. As a result, the feeling of sluggishness from the start is visually reinforced throughout, and it doesn’t do the film any favours when trying to inject some life into its ever more boring story.
The story itself doesn’t seem too bad at first, promising a simple holiday romance between two perfectly likable characters. Unfortunately, that really gets lost in the multitude of other stuff going on. Apart from the central romance, there are a couple of other relationships the film focuses on, the plethora of secondary characters, and a few too many breaks from normal dialogue to more propaganda-focused lines, and none of it really fits together into one coherent plot, or even genre.
Yes, the scenery and settings do work in the same way as the opening act, and provide a degree of brightness to proceedings (although it does feel like the characters go back and forth between Pyongyang about five hundred times), but on the whole, the film doesn’t manage to bring about any degree of really fun, or even just pleasant emotion to make this an even slightly engaging watch. Bright and sweet it may be, but it’s just not enough to sustain your interest for nearly 2 hours, and that’s why I’m giving They Met On The Taedong River a 6.0 overall.