Remember calling your favorite radio station and making a dedication to “the one I love?”
No? Alas, you kids don’t know what you missed out on.
“Tune in for Love,” aka “Joyful Music Album” (the translation of its Korean title) is about a star-crossed romance tied together by a shared favorite DJ and his romantic pop Seoul radio show.
Actually, it’s not that neat and tidy, which is a pity. It rambles around that connecting thread and doesn’t make enough of it. And by the way, the Internet Movie Database plot summary for this title is almost entirely wrong.
It’s a tale of missed connections, misunderstandings, troubled history and bad influences, of “I waited for you” and Coldplay’s “Fix You,” the angst of one’s 20s, “when you feel like a loser, all you see is other losers” and “Get in touch with me when something good happens.”
It’s a romance that tries to pair up a young woman, almost instantly smitten by a troubled young man with a secret, and catches up with them as they connect and reconnect, sometimes via KBS “Cool” FM 89.1, home to the Yoo Yeol Show.
That’s what the winsome Mi-soo (Go-eun Kim) is listening to in 1994 when “he” shuffles into her bakery. He wants something with “soybeans in it.” The baker, Eun-ja (Gook-hee Kim) sizes him up as “just out of prison,” and gives him a nickname — “Tofu.”
His real name is Hyeon-yu (Hyun-woo, for those following along on IMDb). Hae-In Jung plays him with a mumbling, eyes-cast down demeanor. Yeah, it turns out he just got out of juvie. The one time Mi-soo asks what he did, “I don’t want to talk about it” (in Korean with English subtitles) is all she gets.
He’s 19. So is she, it turns out. There’s an attraction, driven by what she, Eun-ja and schoolgirls who squeal their way into the bakery agree, is his looks.
“He’s so HANDsome!”
But Hyeon-yu’s brooding is a sign of trouble. He takes a job delivering and helping out around the bakery, WITHOUT anybody knowing why he was in JAIL, mind you, seems shy but interested in Mi-soo, even helps her put up the Christmas tree.
But a delivery boy on a bike stopping by is trouble. That would be Tae-seong (Choi Joon-Young), a punk and old running mate of Hyeon-yu. Whatever Hyeon-yu’s hope of “living a decent life” might be, Tae-seong is there to drag him back to the past, summoning the old gang to the bakery, starting trouble.
Hyeon-yu disappears, the bakery closes, Mi-soo goes to college and it’s 1997. Damned if these two don’t cross paths again.
And again in 2000.
One more time in 2005. That, of course, is the year Coldplay’s “Fix You” came out, and it packed just as much romantic longing and meaning onto Cool 89.1 FM as it did on any radio in the West.
Will Mi-soo “fix” Hyeon-yu? Will he fix their relationship by revealing his “big secret?”
Will they ever get past the hand-holding and sensitive, tentative nature of their love connection, accept their “fate” to be together, and get romantic?
I like the way writer-director Ji-woo Jung (“Modern Boy” was his) pieces together his plot.
One time, Hyeon-yu is headed for his mandatory military service. Mi-soo sets him up with an email account, only to realize after he’s gone that she forgot to give him the password to get in. She puts the word out on their favorite radio station.
But this two-hour-plus romance just dawdles along, allowing plenty of time for missed connections and break-ups, but also omitting key moments of connection.
Not the big ones, mind you — first kiss “etc.”
Still, the obstacles to love are all winners and include losing contact (pre-Internet), moving, closing a business, changing jobs, falling into trouble over and over again.
And the payoff, set to a certain song in a certain year after 11 years have passed, is worth it.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, profanity, romantic situations
Cast: Go-eun Kim, Hae-In Jung, Hae-Joon Park, Gook-hee Kim, Choi Joon-Young
Credits: Written and directed by Ji-woo Jung. A Neflix release.
Running time: 2:02