This is a film which is not quite sure what it is. (And the comments below contain spoilers).
For most of the film, it’s a rather touching story of a young man (just under 20) and an older divorcee (early 30s) in love with each other. It’s complicated by the fact that the relationship started on a rather public footing, with the woman being prosecuted for having underage sex and having to serve 100 hours community service (which involves looking after mentally disturbed old ladies). It’s not revealed how the two got caught. After the conviction, the couple are pursued by tabloid reporters, and one in particular who keeps getting too close and ends up being tied up with green sticky tape by our loving couple (a strangely jarring bit of comedy).
The relationship seems to start with the woman Mun-hee (Suh Jung from The Isle) being very much in control. She gives her young lover, Hyun (Shim Ji-ho), detailed instructions as to how to perform better in bed. He uses the polite form of address to her. But as the film progresses, he gains in maturity — in part encouraged by her — until he is able to cope with the absolutely bizarre ending, of which more later.
The couple settle into domestic bliss with a girl-friend of Mun-hee’s. How she manages to put up with the sexually hyperactive couple is a bit of a mystery; as is how she earns enough money from her laboriously produced novelty mugs to support rather a nice house. But I’m being pedantic. Overall the majority of the film is a pleasure to watch, with beautifully filmed love scenes and nice touches to the developing relationship between the two.
The ending is really strange. Our couple decide to hold a coming-of-age party for Hyun, to which they invite some very odd guests: Mun-hee’s ex-husband; Hyun’s disapproving parents; the police inspector who interrogated Mun-hee; the tabloid reporter; one of the deranged grannies from the asylum; Hyun’s slightly crazy would-be girlfriend. The granny decides the only really suitable girlfriend for Hyun is she herself; meanwhile Mun-hee’s ex-husband (publicly told by Mun-hee that he was lousy in bed) decides to pick a fight with Hyun, who demonstrates some martial arts moves straight out of Volcano High, complete with obligatory swooshing noises has he leaps and twirls through the air. In the end, Hyun proves himself the better man by downing a bottle of beer faster than the ex, and everyone seems to agree that the couple should be left to enjoy each other’s company in peace. As the clock strikes midnight the police inspector congratulates them and goes off almost disappointed – now they’re not doing anything illegal. And so it ends.
I think the film bears watching again, if only to make sense of the conversation and arguments in the final scene; and as a complete antidote to that other film about an experienced lover with an underage “victim”, Jang Sun-woo’s Lies.
After watching the film, I became puzzled that the woman should be prosecuted for having underage sex: the boy seemed pretty grown-up to me. A bit of research came up with this website, which stated the age of consent is 13, which puzzled me still further. Further helpful input from correspondents suggested that the ages in the film’s subtitles (under 20 for the boy) were probably Korean ages, so subtract one or two years to get western ages; but that still didn’t satisfy me. So I asked the Korean Dude at SeoulSelection. This is how he replied:
According to the Criminal Law, one will be charged with rape if he or she had sex with a person who’s under 13. But that doesn’t mean it’s all right to have sex with a person who’s over 13, for the person is not considered an adult. The Dude has never heard of teenagers being arrested for having sex with one another. But it would be a different story if an adult had sex with a minor, whom this society consider too immature to make crucial decisions. In the long run, the court, The Dude guesses, will makes its decision taking into consideration the entire situation of the case. There are many other laws concerning adolescents. The Adolescent Protection Law, for example, stipulates that those 19 and under are minors. Strictly speaking, people born up to 1988 are legally adolescents this year. For your reference, the Civil Law says that males over 18, and females over 16, are free to get married without their parents’ concent.
Thanks for the insight, Dude.