Rather than assuming the conventional didacticism that so often accompanies this type of LGBT cinema, Hyun-ju Lee politely steps back to watch her protagonists tentatively get together. With the deeply affecting performances of Sang-hee Lee and Sun-young Ryu at its helm, this low-key romantic drama makes a bid for the normalisation of queer Korean relationships.
Lee’s direction is nicely self-effacing. Her tactful exploration of the power of indirectness and insinuation produces a subtlety that more heavy-handed Western cinema seems to have lost. Lee observes the frustrations of a love affair between snatches of conversation, unanswered phones and misunderstandings. Of course Our Love Story’s rather oblique love story might alienate its audience, but this is a risk that has solid justification.
One criticism might be that the coming-out story is problematically framed around Yoon-ju’s artistic temperament. While she claims her homosexuality is in no way a part of her artistic practice, the scene in which she first lays eyes on Ji-soo happens to coincide with the one in which she is sourcing materials to use as part of degree show suggesting that homosexuality is no more than creative experimentation.
The film could also be accused of ‘love is merely madness’ style overtones when the beloved, a bartender who comes to stand for the intoxication of a lesbian love affair, disappears from the scene to leave Yoon-ju nauseated and heartbroken. Giddy alcohol-induced lovesickness, however, is the plight of most of the film’s lovers and this is another crisis that is only just averted.
For a debut feature, Our Love Story is a remarkably mature depiction of a forbidden love affair. Fighting the pressures of the heteronormative gaze, the film provides a refreshing take on its genre. Sadly, however, it often neglects to uphold consistency within its coming-out through-line.
CAST: Sang-hee Lee, Sun-young Ryu
DIRECTOR: Hyun-ju Lee
WRITER: Hyun-ju Lee
SYNOPSIS: The lesbian romance between art student Yoon-ju and bartender Ji-soo is complicated by society’s heteronormative expectations of young women.