On a flight to Italy, middle-aged film director Min-gu (Kim Seung-woo (김승우) surprisingly comes face-to-face with his first love, Min-ha (Lee Tae-ran (이태란). Though she initially pretends not to recognise him, a spark is clearly rekindled between the two and when Min-ha discovers he is working at a nearby film festival in Turin she sets out to meet her lost love again. Although now in their forties the passion from their younger days is instantly rekindled, and the lovers decide to travel around Italy together to relive their ‘second twenties.’
A refreshingly original and beautifully shot romantic tale, director Park Heung-sik’s Twenty Again is an entertaining story of two 40-somethings rekindling the passion of their first true love. While somewhat contrived and clearly owing a huge debt to Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Twenty Again is a welcome addition to the genre with its strong leads and appreciation of art and culture.
One of the great strengths of helmer/scribe Park Heung-sik’s Twenty Again is the manner in which he eschews the will they?/won’t they? cliches involving an impossibly attractive young couple, and instead explores the rather more complicated and mature romantic lives of those in their forties. It’s a welcome change and while contrivances are initially employed to bring the couple together, once the reunion occurs the story hits the ground running as both Min-gu and Min-ha have a palpable chemistry and are thoroughly compelling protagonists. The couple never shy away from discussing the complexities of their lives as both are married with children, yet it is particularly difficult to judge them as their Italian affair feels beautifully organic and reinvigorating, with their glances of adoration striking an incredibly sincere emotional core.
Min-gu and Min-ha are also noteworthy as a professional and intellectual couple. Min-ha in particular is a wonderfully refreshing romantic lead, as she exudes intelligence, strength, assured elegance, and sexual empowerment to great effect, a far cry from the weak-willed naivety so often exemplified in her contemporaries. While the characterisation doesn’t always strike the correct balance between confident and cocky, playful and mean, Min-ha is still highly charismatic and makes it plain to see how shy director Min-gu could fall so deeply for her.
As their reconciliation develops, many of the conversations involve discussions of art, culture and philosophy as they travel around various picturesque Italian cities. It occasionally becomes a bit implausible as they have a seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge of the arts despite having careers in wildly different fields, yet the topics are constantly engaging. Conversations regarding their relationship during their twenties resonate the most by far, especially a key scene in which the reasons behind their separation are discussed. At times however the narrative becomes akin to a series of repetitive vignettes, as the lovers sleep together then visit a gallery, have sex followed by a museum tour, and so on, with the conversations often not continuing across the course of their trip, which is something of a missed opportunity.
Director Park has undoubtedly been influenced by Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise in crafting Twenty Again, which is certainly no bad thing, yet he makes the misstep of referencing the film more than once through the course of the drama. By alluding to its source of inspiration the remarks draw the audience out of the story, instead of letting the film find its own unique voice, which it so clearly has.
Twenty Again is a refreshingly original romantic tale by director Park Heung-sik, as two forty-somethings rekindle a past romance within the beautifully shot locales of Italy. The mature and compelling couple are consistently charismatic, and while the occasional shortcomings in the script detract from their journey, Twenty Again remains a passionate exploration of love.