New rom-com 'Killing Romance' adds fatal twist to comedic plot

Actors Lee Sun-kyun, left, and Lee Ha-nee, right, in the romantic comedy film ″Killing Romance″ [LOTTE ENTERTAINMENT]

A new rom-com “Killing Romance” offers a twist to the formulaic romantic comedy setup.

This upcoming film is about a top celebrity who is oppressed by everyone around her including her own husband — so she kills him.

“Killing Romance” is led by Lee Ha-nee and Lee Sun-kyun — the latter known globally for his role in the Oscar-winning “Parasite” (2019).

“I wanted to make a fairytale for adults,” said director Lee Won-suk during a press conference held at Lotte Cinema Konkuk University branch in eastern Seoul on Monday. “When I heard from the screenwriter that this film’s premise was a comedy about killing the protagonist’s husband, I was immediately drawn and wanted to direct ‘Killing Romance.’”

From left, actors Lee Ha-nee, Lee Sun-kyun and director Lee Won-suk speak during a press conference for ″Killing Romance″ at Lotte Cinema Konkuk University branch in eastern Seoul on Monday. [LOTTE ENTERTAINMENT]

Actor Lee plays the protagonist, Hwang Yeo-rae, a famous actor in her own right who marries Jonathan Na, played by Lee Sun-kyun, during a trip to a South Pacific island. She announces her retirement from the entertainment industry after getting married, but eventually realizes that the person who she thought could rescue her from the oppression she experienced as a famed celebrity is actually imprisoning her again in an unhappy marriage. Yeo-rae enlists the help of another character, Kim Beom-woo, played by Gong Myung, to escape once and for all.

“I wanted to tell a story about being brave,” director Lee said. “We all experience a lag in our lives, when we are stuck without a place to go. In those times we search for a source of courage to begin anew and are guided by those around us. Through ‘Killing Romance,’ I hoped to relay a message of courage and hope with a story that may seem far-fetched but could be seen as a modern fairytale.”

Actor Lee Ha-nee as Hwang Yeo-rae in ″Killing Romance″ [LOTTE ENTERTAINMENT]

Lee Sun-kyun, who has been trailblazing through various roles since his global hit with “Parasite,” said he took on the role of Jonathan because he was mesmerized by the “freshness” of the script.

“When I first read the script my reaction was: ‘What is this?’” he said. “I had watched and enjoyed director Lee’s past works including ‘How to Use Guys with Secret Tips’ (2013), and wondered how ‘Killing Romance’ would look with his direction added to this very funny script. So I decided to hop on board.”

The most important aspect of a comedy film in order for it to deliver real laughs is for the acting talent to suspend reality and believe in the sometimes nonsensical situations they are playing, said Lee Ha-nee.

“We as actors have to believe in each scene for the film to be a real comedy,” she added. “I tried to focus on the authenticity of acting out Yeo-rae’s character.”

Main poster for ″Killing Romance″ [LOTTE ENTERTAINMENT]

The director and main cast of “Killing Romance” hope to play a hand in reviving Korean cinema with their comedy, amid the slow recovery of the domestic theater after the pandemic. The pressure is real, they said, but they are willing to step up to the game and face the challenge head-on.

“We definitely feel pressure regarding box office records and our film becoming a hit, and I feel that we should feel that pressure,” said Lee Sun-kyun, somewhat defiantly. “There are talks within and outside the industry that this period now is a crisis for the Korean film market. I also feel that after the accolades with ‘Parasite’ and the following Covid-19 pandemic, our films did not get to see the light that they could have.”

Actor Gong Myung in ″Killing Romance″ [LOTTE ENTERTAINMENT]

What is most urgent is to make and release films that audiences can enjoy so that people will come back to theaters, continued Lee.

“It is all up to the audiences, and it is the audiences who have loved and supported Korean films,” said Lee. “I hope that ‘Killing Romance’ will be one of the films that bring moviegoers back to the cinema.”

“Killing Romance” opens in theaters across Korea on Friday.