Have you ever struck out on a date because of a careless word or a clumsy gesture? Writer-director, Hong Sang-soo, ponders this quandary in Right Now, Wrong Then, a romantic-drama that plays out like a low-key Groundhog Day. The film benefits from strong performances in the lead roles and, despite some ponderous pacing, the central relationship endears and the script enlightens.
The narrative is divided into two halves. In the first, Ham (played by Jung Jae-young) makes a connection with Hee-jung (played by Kim Min-hee) but the relationship falters. The second half replays the scenes from the first half but, this time, Ham fares better—a parable for the virtues of honesty and confidence. Min-hee is effective as the delicate object of Ham’s affection, but Jae-young is especially good in the way he subtly morphs his character for the second ‘attempt’. Technically, I enjoyed the attention to detail with framing (watch out for repeated scenes that are filmed from alternative perspectives). Unfortunately the cinematography falters with the occasional ill-advised zoom.
I enjoyed this film despite the lack of plot. As a performance piece it shares favourable similarities with Lost in Translation and rewards patient audiences—a perfect date-movie for thoughtful couples!