Vampire Owl: I see that they are now exploring two shades of life.
Vampire Bat: Life has millions of shades as of now, towards infinity.
Vampire Owl: There are not many shades for the undead.
Vampire Bat: We have stayed in the grey, not light or dark, not sweet and sour area.
Vampire Owl: Well, humans do consider us to be very much evil.
Vampire Bat: You have never really cared for their opinions.
Vampire Owl: If they are going to cross over to our realm, we will have to care.
Vampire Bat: Nobody can come through the portal without identification. They shall meet their doom even if they manage to do so.
Vampire Owl: Well, you cannot be sure about humans and evil – both always find a way to spread the terror.
Vampire Bat: Evil shall spread, but random humans crossing the portal are the least of our worries. An army of the dead led by the lich queen should worry us more. It would give even Uncle Dracula a jolt.
[Gets a chocolate cake and three cups of Thekkady tea].
What is the movie about? :: Jang-Hyuk (Lee Woo-je) is hospitalized due to Hepatitis B, and his own relatives as well as parents keep away from him. They keep their masks and glvoes at all times and makes him very uncomfortable. A nurse Da-eun (Chae Soo-bin) ignores the advice of others and takes good care of him. Soon, they become close, and spends some time time together after he saves her from being caught for smoking. She is annoyed that she has to work all the time, and often eats with him or falls asleep on his bed. He helps her to take a nap in his space while setting a timer. Jang-Hyuk is unhappy that he has to be in bed at a time right after he got a permanent job, but the presence of Da-eun makes him feel better. Even though he feels that she the two are really close, the time for his discharge is almost there, and Da-eun seems to be getting distant from him. On the day on which he leaves, his favourite nurse is nowhere to be found, and his friends and family returns to him as he is now cured. His friends also tells him that people like him won’t be able to get beautiful girls like her as girlfriends.
So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: He goes back to the hospital and find the first part of her number, and calls a good number of phone numbers until he finally finds that it is her on the other side. She invites him to come to her home, and he stays with her for the night – he spends the night repairing the broken lamps and preparing breakfast. The two seem to be attracted to each other, and after they go on a trip to Jeju Island together. He decides that he would lose weight and in that way, they can wear similar clothing and look cuter together. A slim Jang-Hyuk (Jang Ki-yong) comes into the picture soon. As he has been a hard working engineer, he is intimated by his superior that he will be sent to a big firm in Seoul where he will have some grand opportunities with chances to earn more. This means that he will have to travel from Incheon to Seoul so that the couple can still be together. But when he reaches there, he discovers that there is another candidate for the permanent post, and he would not be assured about holding the position because she is tough competition.
And how does life go on with the new changes :: The other candidate for the permanent post, Bo-yeong (Krystal Jung), seems to be always trying to make him look worse than her. But when Bo-yeong comes up with a new bridge design, Jang-Hyuk comes up with a critical flaw in the design. She is forced to sort it out with him. Initially, he is happy about her not able to solve the problem, and thus not able to go home. Soon enough, he takes pity on her, and helps her in solving the problem – the two begin to have a bond, and with their success, gets more projects to work together. The relationship between Jang-Hyuk and Da-eun seems to be more strained though, as both of them have to work late, and traveling all the way between the two cities in the heavy traffic is even more strained. He arrives late, and even though he does not come home every day anymore, shows less interested in Da-eun. He even refuses to do the small things at home. Soon, it turns out that Da-eun is pregnant, and he wishes to spend more time with her, but it also seems near impossible. Then it seems that he has feelings for Bo-yeong. Life becomes more complicated for all of them.
The defence of Sweet and Sour :: Chae Soo-bin raises the level of this movie with her performance, and it can be seen that she is always one step ahead – it becomes clear by the end of the film. The cuteness factor also serves well towards the performance, and the initial moments at the hospital are so good. Krystal Jung and Jang Ki-yong plays the other two main characters, and their work also contributes well here – the combination scenes at the office are very much interesting; there is some humour related to that too. I am seeing all these three main performers in any movie for the first time. Lee Woo-je, despite lesser screen space, adds some humour to the movie early too, along with a feel-good factor – the early incidents featuring him are very relevant to how the movie ends. The movie is more drama and less romance, and it is evident after half an hour into the proceedings itself. It has to be best appreciated for how it brings the twist in the end, how it brings everything together to have a feel-good even within break-up – a little bit of tampering with the narrative helps it to achieve the same with efficiency.
Positives and negatives :: The movie nicely move away from the cliché which would have been expected with this movie. As things come around, the audience is reminded of the situations when work and family are not easy to manage together. With the stress that comes as the result of work, and the desire to reach newer heights as part of the job, the relationships are very much destroyed with ease as shown here. The endless work and no appreciation is no stranger to any of us even in India – as it has been evident for years, the situation of nurses never got to be any better, despite the service that they have provided during the corona virus pandemic and beyond. The movie keeps reminding us about the every day problems which become part of relationships. The physical exhaustion as part of a competitive world is something that would feel real for almost everyone; unless you are a politician who can get whatever is needed with least work. The movie should have still focused on the romance as much as the drama. There are also moments when the film seems to repeat things, and does a little extra when not needed. People who missed the first few minutes will also fail to catch up with the finish.
How it finishes :: Sweet and Sour is the romantic drama with a twist that makes us feel that it is more than just the usual drama of life – yet, it is as close to reality as it can be. The last fifteen minutes or so becomes the big finish that elevates the movie. It serves as a reminder to what can happen when more importance is given to things other than relationships. Yet, in a world which seeks success in work for the definition of an ideal person, especially men, you just cannot stop working as if your life depends on it. You will never stop thinking about how the world has transformed, and about the difficulties to battle the competition, and still be available to do anything other than work. It is the curse that has come across the profit-seeking world, which never stops asking for more; profits matter more than lives, and there are not many things that can substitute money in a world which favors nothing over a huge bank balance. The idea that simple romantic drama can bring something different makes us think a lot about the possibilities that we can have even in a realistic world. The reality of romance strikes hard.
Release date: 4th July 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 101 minutes
Directed by: Lee Gye-byeok
Starring: Jang Ki-yong, Chae Soo-bin, Krystal Jung, Lee Woo-je, Choi Hwan-yi, Shin Joon-hang, Park Chul-min, Yeo Min-joo, Park Ji-hoon, Yoon Byung-hee, Lee Geung-young, Yoo Sun, Choi-hyeong, Kim Mi-hye, Ahn Gil-kang, Kim Mi-kyung
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✠ The Vampire Bat.