At one time, romantic comedies were summarised as, “boy meets girl… boy loses girl… boy runs to the airport to catch the girl just in time before her flight.” In this cynical world, the stakes then became so high for us to believe in love that the formula quickly changed. Today, people want the darker, more truthful side of love to their stories. And more often than not, some romances subvert our expectations of the genre to give some surprisingly intense, and hence unfortunate moments.
What is the story about?
Netflix’s aptly titled ‘Sweet & Sour’ is about both these aspects. There is the lovey-dovey meet-cute between nurse Da-eun and patient Hyeok, when he is admitted for hepatitis on her floor. Cut to a few months later, and both struggle to keep it together when Hyeok gets a demanding job in Seoul. Their relationship is barely surviving the long distance and there’s even a possible love triangle with Hyeok’s colleague Bo-yeong, all making up the sour in this equation.
‘Sweet & Sour’ is really sweet when it’s sweet. A lot of time is spent in building up the relationship between Da-eun and Hyeok, and what makes it so wholesome and worthwhile. The initial stages of their relationship are about the little things that they do for each other - changing a light bulb, falling asleep in each other’s arms after a hard day’s work, sharing macarons, and planning their first holiday together. Hyeok’s job is just the beginning of their downfall, and while those cracks that can plague a long distance relationship are shown really well, it is his interest in Bo-yeong that leaves a lot to be desired.
Bo-yeong is tempestuous, vile and clumsy, to say the least. Their rivalry at work (both being new corporate recruits in their department, making them vie for the boss’s attention and hence adversaries) is an easy tool to establish some sexual tension. The late nights at work and their initial dislike for each other is where the film tries to find its humour, when it's just an obvious gloom for the audience, knowing that this leaves poor Da-eun in a lurch. More importantly, the film takes too long to get to the point of their connection and what role it plays in breaking up Hyeok and Da-eun. There is a volley of a twist at the end. For some, it’ll be a complete shocker, and for some like me, you’ll have some inkling of it from the beginning itself. How impressed you are with the twist will pretty much determine how you feel about the whole film, because the climax makes up a great part of the story’s larger lesson.
Both Chae Soo-bin and Jang Ki-young, who play the main couple, are extremely charming and effective in their roles. They share a lot of chemistry and that certainly adds to the sadness of the whole film. Singer Krystal Jung portrays Bo-yeong brilliantly, with a scrappy determination and hints of being a seductive femme fatale. But all said and done, her character is too bizarre to be endearing in any way possible - she is rude, sloppy and completely unlikable, and the change in her behaviour is also very sudden.
Music & Other Departments
The film is pretty straightforward in its technical elements except the climax which uses some cool effects and techniques to unveil the twist. The first half is edited really well, while the second half drones off. Sweet & Sour looks great, but it’s not consistent in its writing.
The film really pulls you in initially with the simplicity with which it views romance. And the twist at the end is certainly one which evokes a lot of questions about what it is that you watched, and the sanctity of it all.
If the film would have got to itc conflict quicker, you’d feel it zoomed by a lot easier. Between the solid beginning and end, there’s a whole hour that feels a bit sloppy and slow. The dangerous grounds on which Hyeok and Bo-yeong’s relationship lies also means that the conflict, when it does arrive, feels wafer thin. There is a lesson but it lacks the meaning and emotional depth one expects from something like this.
Did I enjoy it?
There were smaller things to enjoy but they remain superficial. I was expecting a bit more.
Do I recommend it?
With such a heavy trailer, one wishes the film was more thought-provoking. A no-frills one-time watch at best.