Ever wondered what happened to your first love from years ago? Of course you have. Whether your method is searching Facebook and Google or asking old friends, indulging curiosity about that first flame is near irresistible. In South Korea, the notion of chot sarang, or ‘first love’, has been elevated to a cultural fascination and is the subject of many popular films and TV dramas. But of these, the Korean box office hit Architecture 101, with its star-studded cast and pitch-perfect tone, is sure to be a classic.
Seung-min (Uhm Tae-woong) is a weary thirtysomething architect in a major firm who is visited by a beautiful and wealthy woman who insists he build her a new house. The woman is revealed to be Seo-yeon (Han Ga-in), Seung-min’s classmate (and, of course, his secret first love) from their first year university architecture class. As Seung-min reacquaints himself with Seo-yeon in an effort to design her the perfect house, we are taken back to when the two first met as young university students (played by Lee Je-hoon (Bleak Night) and Bae Su-ji (from pop group Miss A)) as we learn what transpired between the two so long ago.
Writer and director Lee Yong-joo, himself a student of architecture in university, has cleverly crafted a film based on themes relating to architecture: our relationship to time, place and other people. The film also mines 1990s nostalgia through witty references to Korean pop music, fashion and computers and features the faded, postcard-pretty images that often colour our memories. However, their amber tones obscure the fact that sometimes the memories of our first love can be painful. Architecture 101 hits all the notes, high and low, that we expect from a chot sarang Korean drama and will rekindle thoughts about loved ones from your past.