Director: Lee Yong-joo
Starring: Uhm Tae-woong, Han Ga-in, Lee Je-hoon, Bae Suzy
When architect Seung-min (Eom Tae-woong) gets a visitor in former college classmate Seo-yeun (Ha Ga-in) at his firm, he hardly recognizes her. Catching up, she asks him to build a new house for her father. As the two work together on designing the house, both go back to their college days when a younger Seung-min (Lee Je-hoon) and younger Seo-yeun (Bae Suzy) took Architecture 101 together. The house nearing completion, the two former classmates must give closure to the events that kept them apart until now.
Eom as present day Seung-min is good; he offers a pretty stark contrast from the clumsy younger version. You know that this character has developed a history and at first, it is hard to reconcile the two as one person, but as the film nears its end you notice little choices that show that he very is the same person. It is a great nuanced performance. Ha- older Seo-yeun is very lovely and a much more vulnerable version of her very popular younger self. I had wondered what had happened to her after seeing Ha in Once Upon a Time in High School, and this seems to be her only film since that performance. Apparently she has been active in television but my Korean drama experience is limited at best.
As the young Seung-min, Lee is clumsy, timid, and very soft spoken. It is almost frustrating to see how much of a kid he is in love, but he’s a good guy at his core, just unsure about how to proceed. Bae Suzy, however, was a revelation to me as the younger Seo-yeun. Having a passing familiarity with her musical career as a member of MissA, I didn’t really expect much out of her than a pretty face. She delivers some very well placed gravitas to her role as the young and pretty transfer student Seo-yeun. With a fair bit of finesse and seemingly natural talent, it is very easy to see why she would be so desired by the young Seung-min. Very surprising. I also really like Jo Jung-suk as younger Seung-min’s friend, who gives advice for the floundering student. His scenes are very funny and I would have liked to see him in present version, but I imagine it would be simple fan service to throw him in there unless he contributed to the story.
The film takes a laid back approach to the camerawork. Many static shots frame the action and offer some pretty imagery. The picturesque location of Jeju Island is on display as well providing a bit of a touristy look at the famous getaway spot. Music is solid, with a good mix of moody and sentimental pieces. Of note is the use of a track from Jeon Ram-whe which is a solid ballad and one that I assume is very indicative of the time period. There is a lot of attention to detail present when recreating the look of the 90s and while some of it feels forced, the nostalgia was definitely there. Record players, pagers, personal computers, and clothing certainly helped stage the past sequences, so kudos to the art department for an especially excellent job.
In the end, Architecture 101 is a better than average romantic drama. With a setup that will seem very familiar to some, the film is anchored by solid performances on both ends of the timeline. The present day is pensive and realistically done providing an ending that I felt satisfied with while the past sequences offer an almost idyllic super sweet version of young love. The two sides are able to successfully meet somewhere in the middle for a lovely if a bit derivative drama.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Heavenly Forest, Love Letter, Honey and Clover