‘20th Century Girl’ just another teenage first love movie

Lauren Linh Bui

The new Korean teenage romance movie “20th Century Girl,” brings back the nostalgic memories of first loves but, regrettably, leaves its audiences unsatisfied with the lack of some of the key characters’ plot developments.

“20th Century Girl,” released on Netflix on Oct. 21 with a nearly two-hour runtime.

It begins with a promise made between Bo-ra, played by Kim Yoo-jung, and Yoen-du, played by Roh Yoon-seo, that Bo-ra will help her best friend keep a close eye on her crush, a boy from their school whose name she knows as Baek Hyun-jin, played by Park Jung-woo, when she goes to America for heart surgery. After following Hyun Jin for a while, Bo-ra unexpectedly falls for Huyn Jin’s best friend, Poong Woon-ho, played by Byeon Woo-seok.

The surprises don’t stop here. It turns out that the actual “Baek Hyun-jin,” whom Yeon-du loves, is Woon-ho. Because of her loyal friendship with Yeon-du, Bo-ra decided to end her blossoming relationship with Woon-ho. Fortunately, misunderstandings are cleared on the day Woon-ho departs for New Zealand, and Bo-ra gets one last chance to confess her feelings to Woon-ho before they part ways. They had kept in touch through email since then, until one day when Bo-ra didn’t hear from Woon-ho again without explanation.

 Fast forward to 2019, Bo-ra learns that Woon-ho passed away all those years ago. At the end, Bo-ra sobs as she watches a video that Woon-ho created about their happy time together.

 Bang Woo-ri, the film’s director, based the plot on her own experience of exchanging diaries with a friend, which makes the storytelling realistic and appealing. 

This film’s Gen Z cast strengthened the movie. Their sincere acting portrays the joys and sorrows of first love, to which many teenagers can relate. My favorite character is Bo-ra, played by Kim Yoo-jung, because, despite her loud and brassy attitude, deep inside, she has a warm heart and a genuine personality.

Despite these positives to the storytelling, the film’s pacing near the end is abrupt. For instance, in one scene, Bo-ra tries to go on a blind date with a guy, and when he introduces his name as Woon-ho, she bursts out crying because he has the same name as her crush. 

Moreover, the movie’s writing left some key characters’ destinies unexplored. For example, it was unclear why no one in the group of four was aware of Woon-ho’s death, especially Woon-ho’s supposed best friend, Hyun Jin. As well, when Woon-ho’s brother broke the news of his death, Bo-ra was hardly surprised or curious about the cause of his death.

Even after the film’s two-hour run time, these loose ends still left me wanting for more logical explanations.

Overall, “20th Century Girl” is a feel-good movie for those who want to spend a night with a good cry, not for those who have high expectations of a wholesome young love romance. Though the movie did not reach its full potential in terms of character development, it did successfully tell a story about one’s first love and its nostalgic, unforgettable moments.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars