Movie Review: 20th Century Girl


If you are a fan of The Fault of Our Stars or Five Feet Apart, 20th Century Girl is a must watch! From the comedy to tragedy, 20th Century Girl brings a young love between two people who are dealing with similar situations causing a bond between them to arise.

Inspired by director Bang Woo-ri’s personal experience, 20th Century Girl is a two-hour Korean romance movie that was released on Netflix on October 6th. The movie is set in the late 90’s in South Korea in a small quiet town named Cheongju, where we follow a teenage girl, Na Bo-Ra in her first year of high school where she experiences her first, and last, love.

The movie starts introducing Na Bo-ra (Kim Yoo-jung) and her best friend Kim Yeon-du (Roh Yoon-seo), discussing Kim Yeon-du’s departure to New York for a heart surgery. Kim Yeon-du decides not to go because of a newly developed crush on a boy she just met, while working at her mother’s tailor shop. Na Bo-ra, being the best friend she is, doesn’t let her stay and decides on creating a personalized email where she’ll send Kim Yeon-du everything she finds about her new profound crush, Baek Hyun-jin (Park Jung-woo).

Once Na Bo-ra agrees, the movie no longer focuses on Kim Yeon-du’s departure, and focuses more on Na Bo-ra hopping from place to place, trying to follow Baek Hyun-jin everywhere he goes to get as much personal information on him as possible. While trying to get Baek Hyun-jin’s pager, she meets Poong Woon-ho (Byeon Woo-seok), Baek Hyun-jin’s best friend, who helps her get closer to Baek Hyun-jin.

Despite being set in South Korea, 20th Century Girl is like any typical American rom-com. Like most romance movies,a love triangle between Baek Hyun-jin, Na Bo-ra, and Poong Woon-ho but Bang Woo-ri adds in her own twist by adding a comedic relief to the heartbreak between the trio. Unlike American movies, where the trio of friends end up breaking up and never talking, Na Bo-ra, Baek Hyun-jin, and Poong Woon-ho don’t stray away from each other and stay friends until the end of the movie, which was a great contrast to see.

A great contrast about Korean movies is that they are kept PG-13. We are used to seeing PDA and sex scenes being part of your typical movie experience like in After where sex is a key component that adds to the chemistry and drama of the main leads whereas in 20th Century Girl, they steer clear of huge PDA and simply add in a kiss, which really embodies the perspective of an innocent young love between high schoolers.

Nevertheless, the appeal to Korean movies doesn’t just come from the action, it also comes from their acting. Many critics say that their acting is overly dramatic, and it may be at times, but it doesn’t take away from the movie, it adds onto it. Because the characters are based around their high school years, where we associate drama as a common teen characteristic, their exaggeration at the right time creates light-hearted laughter and love into every scene. 

Warning: Mild Spoilers Ahead! As the movie progresses we see a shift in atmosphere when Kim Yeon-du returns and we are met with a miniature plot twist that makes Na Bo-ra a victim and a monster. During this part of the movie many, like me, will find Na Bo-ra’s actions to be frustrating and hypocritical when she focuses more on her friend’s heart than her own, and keeps her true feelings a secret. Adding to my anger, is when Kim Yeon-du finds out the secret, and lashes out at Na Bo-ra, who was merely trying to protect her like she’d always done before.

Overall, the movie was really good. I’d rate it a 9/10. If you are a major fan of rom-com movies, I recommend watching this movie.