Please Teach Me English

Director:  Kim Sung-su
Year: 2003
Rating: 6.5

Country: Korea

This Korean romantic comedy is just plain silly dilly but manages to be much more appealing than it deserves to be because of the lovable performances from all off the cast. In particular from Lee Na-Young, who plays Yeong-Ju, shaped like a bean pole and as nerdy as a slide rule in your front pocket but much more goofy. She is adorable. Annoyingly adorable but adorable just the same. You never know if you want to hug her or smack her (as is the custom in Korean films). Every time she has a thought it is like one of those scrolling neon signs moving across her forehead - either in her pout, he scheming squinty look or when she breaks into her radiant smile when she thinks love is coming her way. I admit to being often amused - a few times even guffawing and I don't guffaw a lot. It was just so corny and sweet like the Halloween treat that you always hated getting from the cheap seats. At 110 minutes it perhaps wears out its welcome, but in truth I could have watched Lee Na-Young and her myriad of facial expressions for a bit longer. Unfortunately for me, she doesn't appear to have been in that many films for me to check out.

Yeong-ju is in customer service in the government electric company and one day a rather abrasive American comes to her with a problem. As soon as the other people in the office see him they literally hide under their desks or leave the room because no one can speak English and they don't want to lose face. Yeong-ju just smiles at him till it is 5 p.m. and tells him time is up. At a work drinking session that night Yeong-ju loses a game and so is chosen as the one that has to go to English classes. Enter our other lovable characters, the female teacher from Australia. a group of eccentric students and Moon-su (Hyuk Jang) who nicknames himself Elvis and becomes the poor target of Yeong-ju's affection.

In the film Yeong-ju is supposed to be normal or plain - poorly dressed like a shopping bag with big spectacles and no make-up - but you can't really escape the fact that as much as they try to plain her down, she is Lee Na-Young and Lee Na-Young is as cute as pumpkin pie with whipped cream on it. Any guy who would dismiss her out of hand like Elvis does is nuts. And we know that. And so we know where this is heading because it is a romantic comedy. But there are a lot of laughs along the way - a few flights of fancy from the over worked brain of Yeong-ju and there is of course the endeavor of all these folks to learn English and a teacher with not a lot of patience. A few methods are tried by Yeong-ju from screaming English to literally eating English words but nothing much helps.

There is of course a snippet of melodrama in the appearance of Elvis's sister who was given up for adoption to America upon birth and his mother (who does most of the smacking in the film) who is weighed down with enormous guilt for doing so. This just sets up the chase that all good romantic comedies need to have while professing your love in front of an encouraging crowd. It works every time.