Lee Gye-byeok’s Sweet & Sour, Netflix’s South Korean romantic comedy, begins with a hepatitis patient in the hospital. The patient starts a flirtatious, odd relationship with Da-eun (Chae Soo-bin), a young nurse who asks to call him “Hyeok.” As the 20-something patient gets healthier over three months, their relationship becomes more than just chatter, gearing up towards a vacation trip for Christmas. And then, 30 minutes in, he looks different.
Da-eun (played by Chae Soo-bin) is working as a nurse when she first meets Jang-hyeok (Jang Ki-young) and they both fall under each other’s spell immediately. She sneaks naps on her overnight shifts from behind the curtains that shield his bed, while he texts his friends, who suggest he find a common interest with her to help strengthen their bond.
The premise of Sweet & Sour – while not overly original – seems interesting enough. Yet once you press play and get deeper into the story, it almost immediately begins to drag. That’s nothing to do with the actors, who all put in fine turns, but the script. There’s little meaningful tension in what it’s trying to tell us – even when Da-eun and Jang-hyeok are at the peak of their problems, things pass by quietly.
The movie does a solid job of portraying the difficulties of maintaining a long-distance relationship and the ways a rigorous job can hurt your personal life. There’s authenticity in certain scenarios that show how bad it is to put work before your emotions. Unfortunately, Sweet & Sour goes too far by trying to justify the casual misogyny of the main character with his heavy workload.
The cast is not at fault for the weak script. Chae Soo-bin and Jang Ki-yong deliver good performances through which we feel the exhaustion of the everyday grind that their characters experience. Krystal Jung is funny and charming, but her character ends up being just a weak excuse.
Still, Sweet & Sour keeps an air of oddity, as Hyeok meets a woman, Bo-yeong (Krystal Jung), at his firm, another one of the contractual workers, forging a love-hate relationship to become successful. They spend every night together, hammering through projects, rising the ranks. This cycle continues almost to an incessant amount as the audience watches the daily slog of these young people’s lives. With little comedy or intrigue, the narrative stalls, waiting for Hyeuk to make a move on either woman, just for the story to progress.
Though the film follows a clear and obvious setup, it goes for broke in its final five minutes, a conclusion that feels both unearned and batshit-crazy in execution. Lee’s got guts to end a simple film with a convoluted ending, and the characters seem as confused as we are when all of the twists are exposed. But it makes for a more exciting film, pushing you to look back throughout the 100-minute film with a different lens, one of confused curiosity instead of reinforced boredom.
Sweet & Sour is a sweet little Korean rom-com, one that’s packed with good acting, interesting ideas, and one almighty twist. While the ending doesn’t quite land as smoothly as one would hope, there’s enough here to make for an enjoyable watch.
Final Score – [6/10]
Reviewed by – Ritika Kispotta
Follow her @KispottaRitika on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KispottaRitika)
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