Saturday, March 23, 2024

Capsule Review: HONEY SWEET, as Sweet as Promised

By Pierce Conran

When we talk about Korean directors, Lee Han isn’t a name that comes up very often, but over the last 22 years, through eight films (including a few others he has written or produced), he has forged one of the most surprisingly consistent filmographies in the industry.

It was a pleasure to catch up with his latest confection, the delightful and easy-going romantic comedy Honey Sweet, in which he teams up with hit director Lee Byeong-heon (Extreme Job), who provided the script.

Yoo Hae-jin is goofy and endearing as a food chemist who can’t stop eating his company’s chips and during time off to recover, he strikes up a ‘mealpool’ friendship with Kim Heon-seon’s extremely gregarious single mother.

This is very formulaic stuff and broader than his best work, which is probably still Punch, but it’s hard to enjoy the film, thanks to its winning cast, the script's dry comedy and endless wordplay (not all of which translates comfortably, unavoidably), but especially Lee’s deceptively simple staging.

I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but the style of the film calls to mind the mood of many modern Korean classics. This isn’t as distinctive as a Park Chan-wook film but you can sense the fingerprints of that era of filmmaking all over this. Perhaps that makes it slightly old-fashioned, but I’ll take that over the blandly slick staging of modern films and dramas, many of which feel like they could have been made anywhere - stylistically, at any rate.

Also hard not to love the many amusing cameos.

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