Director’s Intention might delve too deep into the melodrama at points, but there are plenty of touching ideas in this romantic tale of lost love and missed opportunities.
One of the most common criticisms thrown towards modern rom coms is that they’re too shallow and superficial, but that’s one area where Director’s Intention (영화의 거리) clearly excels. The biggest strength of this timeless romance is just how powerful and memorable it is – every single beat of the story feels purposeful, existing to teach the audience something about their own lives rather than gather a few cheap laughs or forgotten tears. The writing is extremely tight, and it allows Director’s Intention to follow into something much more thoughtful and poetic than its admittedly simple and underdeveloped narrative might initially lead audiences to believe.
The story focuses on a location manager named Sun-hwa (Han Seon-hwa) who is tasked with scouting potential settings for her new client, a successful director from Seoul. But when Sun-hwa first meets with the director, she quickly recognizes him as her ex-boyfriend, Do-young (Lee Wan). The pair are initially hesitant to work together, and after several attempts to ignore their shared history and focus on their job, it soon becomes clear that there’s something much less palpable pulling them together.
It sounds like a very typical and predictable story, and whilst there are certain moments that audiences will see coming right from the beginning, Director’s Intention mostly capitalizes on its comedic premise and keeps things light and entertaining throughout. There are plenty of creative jokes and funny performances, and at least for the first act, it really seems like the film is set up to be something special. Unfortunately, Director’s Intention isn’t quite capable of upholding this momentum, even despite its short runtime. The two protagonists’ journey simply isn’t developed enough to fully engage with – there’s a clear beginning and an even clearer conclusion to their story, but everything in the middle feels forced and unnecessary. It’s a great idea for a story, but unfortunately, it never becomes much more than that. There’s no driving conflict or clear destination to keep things moving, which unfortunately causes the film to feel somewhat flat and dull.
Han Seon-hwa and Lee Wan certainly do their best with the material that they’re given, and it’s their on-screen chemistry and vulnerability that prevents Director’s Intention from truly being a misfire. Even when the story offers very little to work with, both actors disappear into their characters and really sell their relationship to the audience. Even when they’re playing their parts comedically, it’s obvious that there’s something much more serious and emotional buried under the surface. Their raw magnetism might be enough to captivate some audiences, but those who prefer to be challenged and provoked by a story will probably find themselves underwhelmed by the lack of passion behind the whole project.
That being said, Director’s Intention does have its strengths. Every single frame is interesting to look at, leaving the entire film bursting with color and visual creativity. Director Kim Min-geun never takes the easy option behind the camera, but rather gives each scene a very distinct, atmospheric feel that keeps things interesting and refreshing. The score does a good job of mirroring the characters’ emotions, even if it can sometimes lean too heavily into the melodramatic. One thing that often arises in popular rom coms is an overreliance on snappy editing and quick transitions, but that’s never present in Director’s Intention. Scenes are actually given a change to breathe and develop, which is why Seon-hwa and Wan’s lead performances feel so raw and authentic as a result.
If you’re an unapologetic defender of the romantic comedy genre, there’s a good chance that Director’s Intention will strike a chord with you. It’s filled with interesting ideas and poignant philosophy, even if the story never fully takes advantage of its own ideas. However, most audiences will likely struggle to fully lose themselves in the film because of its poor pacing and lack of momentum. You need more than just ideas to make a film work – and Director’s Intention feels like a project that’s completely reliant on its themes rather than its plot. The result is a series of captivating scenes that really understand how to tug at the audience’s heartstrings, but they’re unfortunately encapsulated by a story that’s hard to really care about.
Director’s Intention will premiere on 14 November at the 2022 London Korean Film Festival, which will run 3-17 November in cinema venues around London. Click here to read our other reviews from the festival.