Romance film ‘A Year-End Medley’ invites audiences to a world without COVID-19

From left to right: actors Won Ji-an, Jo Joon-young, Lee Kwang-soo, Go Sung-hee, Kim Young-kwang, director Kwak Jae-yong, Han Ji-min, Lee Dong-wook, Won Jin-ah, Kang Ha-neul, Lim Yoon-ah, Lee Hye-young, Jung Jin-young pose after a press conference Monday at CGV Yongsan in central Seoul. (CJ ENM)

It’s not the end of the year without a romance film about several couples’ Christmas and New Year holidays. Last year there was “New Year Blues” directed by Hong Ji-young and this year we have “A Year-End Medley” by romantic cinema master Kwak Jae-yong.

“It doesn’t feel like the Christmas or New Year holidays anymore because of COVID-19. I want to recreate the holiday mood we used to enjoy,” Kwak said at a press conference Monday at CGV Yongsan in central Seoul. “In our film, there is no COVID-19 or pandemic.”

Kwak’s new film features a cast of 14 actors and tells intertwining love stories between characters who stay or work at the Emros Hotel.

Everything audiences could need to get the holiday vibe is in the movie.
“A Year-End Medley” begins with singer-songwriter Leekang (Seo Kang-joon) in Santa Claus custom singing a Christmas carol with a group of people in a studio without wearing a mask.

It features props like Christmas trees and decorations here and there and scenes of people gathering for the New Year’s countdown.

During the press conference, the director added that the film aims to include both relatable and dreamlike elements.

“I tried to show my style through the stories of people staying at the hotel. I tried to portray (situations of) people in various (economic) classes and also create a story that feels like a fairy tale,” Kwak said.

However, it seemed he had difficulty balancing the two elements, as most of the stories introduced in “A Year-End Medley” were cliched and obvious.

Emros Hotel housekeeper Yi-young magically meets her prince charming, hotel CEO Young-jin (Lee Dong-wook) and falls in love. Their story follows the same plot as the Cinderella story so often shown in Korean romantic dramas.

There are many realistic conflicts and relatable difficulties introduced early in the film. Jae-young (Kang Ha-neul) constantly fails the civil service exam, while So-jin (Han Ji-min) struggles with the news that her best friend Seung-hyo (Kim Young-kwang) is marries because she secretly has a crush on him. The manager of star singer-songwriter Sang-hoon (Lee Kwang-soo) has a hard time asking his artist Leekang to renew his contract with him, because the star has better offers from other agencies.

“A Year-End Medley” by Korean director Kwak Jae-yong (CJ ENM)

Nonetheless, these issues are all easily and idealistically resolved in the film.

Additionally, rookie actor Jo Joon-young, who plays a high school athlete in love with the most popular girl (Won Ji-an) in school, often shows his inexperience in the film. This is Jo’s first commercial film.

Despite these flaws, the film is still watchable.

The amateurishness of the rookie is offset by the natural and witty performances of veteran actors like Jung Jin-young and Lee Hye-young. Renowned actors like Han Ji-min, Lee Dong-wook, Kang Ha-neul, Im Yoon-ah, and Lee Kwang-soo also help make the amazing story somewhat believable.

Kwak’s new film is released simultaneously in theaters and via the CJ ENM TVing streaming platform on Wednesday.

By Song Seung-hyun ([email protected])

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