Late last month, the movie On Your Wedding Day was released. The audience soon called it “the romance movie of the year” due to many aspects of the movie, including the chemistry between the male and female leads and the romantic yet realistic plot line (from this point on, this analysis includes spoilers). The movie is about Woo-yeon, a hopeless lover played by Kim Young-kwang, and his decade-long journey revolving around the girl he is head over heels for: his “first love”, Seung-hee, played by Park Bo-young. The story traces back to when they first met in high school all the way through their college years and then adulthood. Here, we should go over what “first love” exactly means. It is defined as either the experience of feeling true love towards someone for the first time, or the person such feeling was felt towards. But first times are never perfect, and it’s no different with love — we make stupid and obnoxious mistakes; we give our entire heart out to the subject of our love; we struggle to let go. Hence, the experience of first love is typically characterized as being innocent and awkward, but all the while sincere. Likewise, Woo-yeon’s sincere feelings and occasionally foolish actions depict exactly a man crazy in love for the first time. However, this movie is not just a romance; it is also a coming-of-age movie in which the story follows Woo-yeon’s decade-long journey of emotional maturation. The movie is set strictly in his point of view, so as we watch the movie we feel like we’re traveling the years with him. We encounter his hardships, watch him work his way through bad times, and ultimately approach Seung-hee and make their love a reality. But we also watch him screw up and disappoint her, leading them to split up and years later congratulate her on her marriage with a different man.
Either positively or negatively, many people find that the experience of first love leaves an unerasable imprint in their hearts. This is why movies about first loves have had stable success in the box office: they make people feel nostalgic and sentimental, reminiscing old memories and feelings. So it only makes sense that movies about this topic are frequently produced and become popular worldwide. To introduce a few: You Are the Apple of My Eye (2011) in Taiwan, Let Me Eat Your Pancreas (2017) in Japan, The Notebook (2004) in America, and of course, Architecture 101 (2012) in Korea. Because Architecture 101 was such a big hit in Korea, many movie reviews for On Your Wedding Day compared the two movies. Though both movies smoothly and successfully unravel the story of a man’s first love, there is a clear difference between the two.
Long story short, we can say that On Your Wedding Day is a more mature and realistic version of Architecture 101. Both movies characterize the experience of the male lead’s first love as an unforgettable and sensational one, vividly portraying the affectionate, heart-fluttering moments as well as the frustrating or heartbreakingly sad ones. In Architecture 101, the male and female leads are separated for about a decade then meet again. Despite the fact that both the female and male leads are either married or engaged to different people, they end up falling for each other again, ignoring the circumstances that disagree with their love. Though this movie finely portrays the romantic nostalgia and how deep of an imprint one’s first love can leave in them, the end of their reunion only proves them as irresponsible and emotionally immature, unable to let their memories and past emotions go. On the contrary, the leads of On Your Wedding Day have a more down-to-earth and mature attitude towards their reunion. This movie shows that first love is significant and meaningful, but that doesn’t mean all faults can be tolerated and that mutual respect and care are less important. Though Woo-yeon and Seung-hee are happier than ever when they get together as adults, they soon come across a phase of dullness. This phase leads Woo-yeon to make critical mistakes that hurt Seung-hee. The way the movie captures the way the feeling of first love slowly changes and cracks and the process of the couple falling apart is more realistic than in many other movies, contradicting the typical “happily ever after” ending. As the movie ends, Seung-hee marries another man and Woo-yeon congratulates her on her marriage, thanking her for how she has changed him in the past years. This ending scene perfectly shows how Woo-yeon has matured emotionally, letting go of the past and coping with his feelings.
In the end, the experience and memory of first love is different for everyone. It may be sweet, it may be traumatizing, or it may even be near meaningless. But for most, when it comes to sentimentality and romance, nothing beats this topic. Perhaps the experience of first love is meaningful not only because it was when we were innocent, making mistakes and learning about how to truly care for someone, but also because it marks the beginning of our emotional maturation, learning to take responsibility of our feelings and actions, and learning to let go.