I’m pretty sure many will have fond memories of our first love, since it’s the time we experience falling head over heels over someone, which can be intoxicating, frightening, and for some, a period of time when all things seemed beautiful. For those who have moved on since then, there will be times when you wondered just how that person is faring currently, although technology these days means you can do a Facebook stalk! Or you can hire a search consultant like what Gong Yoo’s Han Gi-Joon did for a niche market through the opening of a one man proprietorship capitalizing on his innate meticulous research skills.
Finding Mr. Destiny is a tale of two stories that transcend time and space even, like a cosmic fantasy that throws in everything under the sun. It’s a little bit bloated with its many perfunctory subplots and supporting characters, many of whom could be done without if only to dilute the film from its main leads. In the first story, we see how Im Soo-Jung’s Seo Ji-Woo falls in love with almost a stranger 10 years ago while on her solo trip to India, but being quite the naive lady, decide to tempt fate and leave her new found soulmate, deciding that if it was destiny then they would meet again some time, some day, and probably be together for good.
Tough luck lady, welcome to the real world, which is where the other narrative arc unfolds with Han Gi-Joon entering the picture as the down and out travel employee who had to strike it out on his own after walking out on his Winter Sonata impersonation gig. His first customer happens to be the reluctant Ji-Woo, dragged by her dad (Cheong Ho-Jin) so that she could finally track down, and satisfy her curiosity about her first love, before she can proceed in life to marry a promising air force pilot (who sadly, is very much a side show character). So begins a road trip of sorts where the interaction between client and customer take on comedic proportions, bearing in mind with romances like this one, it’s always opposites attracting and leading to the inevitable.
But here is where the film falters a little. Director Jang Yu-Jung peppers the film with too many minor characters who don’t serve the narrative any advantage other than to add to the runtime for their singular motives. There’s Ji-Woo’s sister Ji-Hye (Lee Chung-Ah) whose relationship with her doctor fiancé is very much contrasted against that of Ji-Woo’s, and Ryu Seung-Soo as Gi-Joon’s brother-in-law, a pulp fiction writer who shares the same home office which brings about some mutual benefits. Being this bloated meant taking a very long time to establish the characters and get the ball rolling, so patience is a virtue for the first half hour as the narrative spins and does a bit of spot running.
What works best in the film is that of the chemistry shared between the two leads, which of course is requisite for any romantic film to work. Im Soo-Jung, probably best known here for her role opposite Rain in I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK, lends her bee stung lips (sorry, it’s that distracting) as a tomboyish woman who pines after that one fling in India a decade ago. Her character’s basically a very likable girl next door type, who gets to va-va-voom the stage through an engineered scene that decks her out in full, made up glory for a musical number – yes you read that right – a musical number, much like a Bollywood film.
While already attractive as the plain jane, the exaggerated thick make up accentuated her features, though I’d still prefer that more natural look. But if you think her character’s just a pretty face, think again. Writer Lee Kyung-Ui actually packed quite the character study in Ji- Woo, unraveled of course by the “people searcher” Gi-Joon as he peels away the exact nature of Ji-Woo’s underlying character, which aligns very close to those who enjoy being on a constant high, of being fearful and someone who knows when to quit while at that feeling of elation, yet detrimental to what I would suggest as a long term sanity check.
The character of Han Gi-Joon is no pushover too, played to mild mannered perfection by Gong Yoo. His neat freakness is a complete contrast to the messy Ji-Woo, and he nails reaction after reaction, and scene after scene as he turns on the charms not at her, but to the audience with his subtle, well meaning antics. His anal ways naturally bring on plenty of laughs, though degenerates into soppy romantic lead pining for a relationship that he had not much of a courage to pursue. Fans of Gong Yoo will inevitably be drawn to this little quirky role that he tackles with aplomb, interesting until the final act.
As with most Korean films that I find these days, it’s relatively bloated with everything thrown in for that hopeful, all round entertainment. Finding Mr. Destiny had more ups than its drawbacks, and while expected, I had enjoyed that little coda at the end that just reminds us of the vastness of our known universe, and the fact that Fate could have been playing us all along without us knowing much. There’s a real Mr. Destiny here for Ji-Woo, and it’s up to you to find out just exactly who, and how.
Review by DICK STEEL