Also known as Men’s Manual, this 2013 film is an extremely engaging South Korean rom-com, one of those movies that once seen is never forgiven. It’s incredibly visually playful and inventive, as well as being delightfully bright and colourful, and it has more charm than thirty turgid and trashy mainstream American rom-com’s if they were combined together in to one terrifying film.
Thirty year old Choi Bo-na (Lee Si-young) is a second assistant director at an advertising agency and her life and career aren’t going anywhere, largely because she’s so meek and quiet and tries to get through without being noticed at all. But after a particularly shitty day’s filming she meets a mysterious man (Park Yeong-gyu) with a stall by the side of the road selling a selection of videos, and Choi reluctantly ends up buying a series that promises to help her carry out the title of the movie.
Perhaps unsurprisingly it works too, she’s initially unimpressed by the advice that the tapes offer as they feature the video salesman and two western actors offering suggestions on how to manipulate men, but when she tries the tips out they lead to her life improving and soon she’s dating a famous actor (Oh Jeong-Se) and directing commercials herself. But will her new beau find out about the tapes? And will he be a right tiresome little shit when he does?
So, okay, yeah, this isn’t the most unpredictable movie but this is such a fun work, with a very smart script and lots of cute ideas and a sod load of memorable images, that for once I’m not foaming at the mouth that it follows the traditional rom-com formula so precisely. The manner in which the various tips are filmed is very funny and though it probably won’t come as a shock that with a bit of make up and a new haircut our heroine turns from a plain jane in to an extremely attractive woman the manner in which she then gets men to stop treating her badly is very funny.
It subverts a good few rom-com tropes as well and highlights gender inequality, and just how appallingly the male of the species often act in such films, in a very smart but also amusing manner. It’s an incredibly good looking film too, surprisingly it was director Lee Won-suk’s debut movie but he’s come out of the gates with a film which is packed with remarkably beautiful scenes, and he’s matched them with a script that is rarely less than delectable, and has created a romantic comedy that’s so adorable that even the most misanthropic among us should still love it.