On the surface, Hwang Yeo-rae (Lee Hanee) and Johnathan Na (Lee Sun-kyun) have a picture-perfect marriage. She’s an established actress while he’s quite the loaded realtor, with no shortage of connections in the industry.
But there’s way more to this fairytale-like relationship.
Hwang’s acting career flopped after being mocked for her mediocre acting chops. Na, on the other hand, is anti-feminist with chauvinist tendencies.
They met after Hwang travelled to Qualla, a fictional island in the South Pacific Ocean, as told by a storyteller who opens the film.
It’s unusual for a film to open with a storytelling session. And in Killing Romance, it’s done in English – much like presenting a modern-day fairytale.
What’s more unusual is the opening graphics were mostly presented with a retro slant, unlike most films nowadays.
Killing Romance is generally an easy-to-watch film with some scenes that’ll make you feel like the film is pretty absurd. But it was probably intentionally designed to achieve that effort.
We also see Hwang and Na dueting for a tune or two at some point as a form of cathartic expression of their emotions.
It has a seemingly lighthearted nature. But there’s quite a fair bit of societal issues addressed in Killing Romance, veiled under its humorous facade.
For instance, Na’s anti-feminist attitude towards Hwang is a reminder that such attitudes still exist in today’s society. In the film, he hurls oranges at her when she does not comply with his demands.
Another character in the film Kim Beom-Woo (Gong Myung), also addresses the South Korean education system.
He’s a student who studied for four years to get into the highly coveted Seoul National University. And he’s also Hwang’s biggest fan who later embarks on an adventure with her in an attempt to kill Na.
The film puts the spotlight on people like Kim who are retaking exams multiple times just to vie for a seat. And how they study in cram schools just to get their desired scores.
Killing Romance may appear draggy at times, with absurdity that’s hard to comprehend in some scenes.
But what made that escape from reality enjoyable is its inevitable pull back to focus on real and current societal issues.