A touching story about what happens when your first love does not work out, and you’re suddenly reunited with that person. It’s a bit slow in pace, but it allows you to feel the nostalgia of your first love fully while giving us plenty of comedic moments through the lovable Jo Jung Suk.
“Architecture 101” follows Lee Seung Min (Uhm Tae Woong) who ends up on a project where he must rebuild a house for his first love in college, Yang Seo Yeon (Han Ga In). She specifically looks him up to be her architect, while he seems to have forgotten her. However as they work together, memories of their first year together in Architecture 101 are dredged up and the two learn more about each other in their lives since “that incident.” There’s hope that perhaps Seo Yeon and Seung Min can rekindle their love, but he’s now engaged to his colleague (a winning Go Joon Hee) and about to move to the States permanently. Would he give up his life now for the chance to start over with Seo Yeon?
That’s the question that pretty much encompasses the latter half of the film, especially once we get to know the younger counterparts a lot better. Lee Je Hoon is amazing as the younger Seung Min. He portrays the character with a shy geekiness that makes you root for him to get the girl, even though he’s going up against his better looking and richer senior, Jae Wook (Yoo Yeon Seok). Suzy is wonderful as Seo Yeon in a very understated way, being very calm and sweet while Han Ga In plays her with a bit more spunk. I guess it comes with getting older – you’re more confident with getting what you want. I daresay that the younger counterparts are better than the older ones because they are the ones establishing that feeling of a first love. If they don’t have the chemistry and don’t establish that nostalgic feeling for the audience, then we won’t be as invested in what happens to them when they’re older. The older actors do a great job in continuing the feelings where the younger ones left off, although I am going to admit that I think Lee Je Hoon and Suzy’s performances were more memorable.
The flashback scenes in the 90s have the added advantage of featuring Jo Jung Suk, who’s the adorably cute, high-school-repeating, best friend of Seung Min, Nab Ddeuk. I wish we saw him in the present timeline, although as to be expected when one gets older, old friends sometimes remain in the past after we’ve changed so much. He was that best friend who taught you how to woo a girl (or guy) and how to kiss. He was that best friend who had your back no matter what and would find a way to cheer you up. I loved the scene where Seung Min holds on to Nab Ddeuk for support and cries in his arms, and Nab Ddeuk just holds on to him even though he always acts like he’s too cool for emotions.
I must admit that I went into the movie hoping it’ll be a romance like “The Notebook” almost, with a happy ending. And yet, we must all admit that first loves don’t always work out. (Imagine this happening in a K-drama. Would you feel satisfied or not?) And the fact that Seung Min and Seo Yeon have changed so much over the years it makes it almost impossible for them to have that conventional happy ending. Both have made decisions that they need to stick to. And what’s sad is that they were torn apart because of a misunderstanding, something where if you look back on now seems utterly trivial. But things are a bigger deal when younger, so it’s understandable – though silly – that that’s what pulls them apart.
I think that Seung Min and Seo Yeon do achieve a certain happiness at the end though, and I still do envision a different kind of future past the movie. It’s one of those movies where I don’t feel tied to the ending because it’s left open enough for me. Even though it’s pretty clear cut, I personally felt like more could happen. I think that could be attributed to the tone and the pace of the movie. It never felt rushed, and it felt as soothing as an ocean wave. What seemed to be lost feelings came back after a while, so if everyone were patient and went with the flow of their lives, a reunion could always be possible.
I certainly enjoyed this coming-of-age movie, which isn’t your typical melodramatic romance or a straight-up romantic comedy, but an understated supplement to the drama Answer Me 1997. I mean, just look at the “GEUSS” shirt!