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20th Century Girl review: An ode to old-school romance and friendship, served with signature K-drama mushiness

20th Century Girl is like your slam book from middle school—flip through the pages from time to time, never to dwell on it for long. 

3/5rating
20th Century Girl review: An ode to old-school romance and friendship, served with signature K-drama mushiness
Posters of 20th Century Girl
  • Pallabi Dey Purkayastha

Last Updated: 12.21 PM, Nov 09, 2022

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STORY: The film revolves around the friendship of teens Bo-ra (Kim You-jung) and Yeon-doo (Noh Yoon-seo), and focusses on how friends pined on one another back in the romantic age of the 90s, in South Korea. 

REVIEW: The unfiltered conversations, those long; lovely love letters, the never-ending wait for your beloved's call on that worn-out telephone—90s romance has set the bar irrevocably high for generations to follow. So, when debutante director Bang Woo-ri’s 20th Century Girl released on streaming giant Netflix, expectations, coupled with nostalgia, were understandably running high.

Situated in a quaint town of South Korea back in the 90s, 20th Century Girl is all things sweet and simple. The story circles around the often complicated friendship of Bo-ra (Kim You-jung) and Yeon-doo (Noh Yoon-seo), who had to leave for America for a major heart surgery, and dedicates a substancial amount of screen time to Bo-ra stalking Yeon-Doo's love interest and finding intricate details about him while she is gone. 20th Century Girl follows the foot-steps of big-league Korean love stories and while some of the promised elements are lost in transition, the overall feel and vibe of the is sure to resonate with those who have lived through the 90s and have fallen in (and out of) love in that era. 

Believed to be fashioned around the director's own life, 20th Century Girl is a deep-dive into the complex emotions of adolescent friendships and that sweet, sweet pain of first love. While the message this coming-of-age tries to impart is clear and compelling, some of the ideas deserved better execution.  

The real stars of the film are its actors. As Bo-ra, Kim You-jung is such a treat to the eyes. Firecely loyal and deeply involved, as Bo-ra, the actor delivers dialogues and expressions that are meant for our tear glands to explode. Noh Yoon-seo, as Yeon-doo, is marvellous as the this friend who's torn between love and friendship at the ripe and raging age of 17. Together, for some inexplicible reason, they make 20th Century Girl fill your heart with love and warmth.

The film has got the aesthetics right: the VHS tapes, pagers, local phonebooths, and the whole nine yards, but somehow the essence of the age we live in lingers in the shadows. 

20th Century Girl is like your slam book from middle school—flip through the pages from time to time, never to dwell on it for long. 

VERDICT: Watch it for nostalgia and if you are a sucker for simpler times... Technicalities be damned!

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