It is a fact that Korean cinema rarely disappoints. They may not always produce breakthrough content, but at least they make sure they don’t disappoint those who have trusted them. That’s what the “girl of the 20th century” is. It’s a story about first love and the importance it has for the rest of your life. It follows Bo Ra as she balances her feelings for Woon Ho and her friendship with Yeon Doo, while maintaining a brilliant mind that grown adults would struggle to emulate. We have to admit that the characters were somewhat generic, but we’ll forgive that, given that the story gave it all. Let’s see how the story unfolded in 1999.
The love story of Bo Ra and Woon Ho
It’s 1999 and Bo Ra’s best friend Yeon Doo is traveling to America for her heart surgery. She tells Bo Ra that she fell in love with Hyun Jin, a guy who attends their school. She doesn’t want to go anymore because she wants to stay back and be with him. Bo Ra tells her she’s stupid (we agree) and will help her find out more about him. Yeon Doo leaves, and Bo Ra sets out to collect all the information about her. She tracks him down and finds out his height, his favorite drink and even his shoe size, regularly emailing these details to her best friend. He is often accompanied by his best friend, Poong Woon Ho. One day, in an effort to find his phone number, she goes through an entire list in the phone book before landing some gold. At her last play, she gets his number, but he realizes that she’s the one calling him. The next day, she learns that all this time she was stalking Woon Ho and not Hyun Jin. He tells her that he will get her information about his friend if she gets him the things he wants. He demands that she bring an NSFW movie from his store. She does but ends up getting caught by the teacher. These little encounters continue until one day she injures her leg in an effort to save Hyun Jin from some local goons. Hyun Jin shows up the next day and asks Bo Ra out, but she refuses him and runs out of the restaurant. Woon ho follows her and helps her tie the bandage on her leg. He gently asks if she loves Hyun Jin. Bo Ra sees Woon Ho in a new light as he takes care of his leg and looks quite handsome while doing it. She tells him she’s interested but doesn’t like him. Any normal teenager would have pushed a little harder to find out the exact meaning of such a vague statement. But Woon Ho is the mysterious hero of K-drama land, and he agrees with what she says.
The next scene shows them all going on a school trip, where once again Hyun Jin tries to flirt with Bo Ra, but she once again turns him down. Seeing these interactions, Woon Ho gains confidence that he has a chance after all. That night, Bo Ra gets drunk with her classmates and runs into Woon Ho. She tells him that he has pretty eyes and she likes him. From then on, this is the beginning of their story. He tells her that he misses his brother in New Zealand and wants to see her again. She asks him for a movie and he accepts. But there is a key in their plans. Yeon Doo returns and we learn that the person she had a crush on was Woon Ho and not Hyun Jin. Bo Ra is unable to confess to her that they started seeing each other and decides to back off on her own. She sends Yeon Doo in her place for the movie. That night, she calls Woon Ho from the phone booth. He asks her to count to 10. By the time she finishes, he is in front of her. K-dramas know how to deliver butterflies.
But everything is far from ideal as Bo Ra tells him that she doesn’t have feelings for him and breaks up with him. That night, as he was returning home, he remembered how he had fallen in love with her when he came back to Korea. He had fallen in love with her for the first time and wanted to tell her before returning to New Zealand. There is some awkwardness between them in the coming days, which is noticed by Yeon Doo. Everything gets complicated when, during a double date at the amusement park, Woon Ho goes off and confesses his feelings to Bo Ra. He tells her he’s leaving, but Bo Ra doesn’t react and hides his feelings. Hyun Jin tells Yeon Doo that they saw each other. Upon returning home, the two best friends argue, with Yeon Doo telling her that she should have been honest with her.
’20th Century Girl’ Ending Explained: Why Did Woon Ho Stop Contacting Bo Ra?
Later, she herself tells Woon Ho the reality of Bo Ra’s feelings and encourages him not to let go of them just yet. That night, he goes to meet her, but she is in the hospital with her brother Ba Da. The next day, Yeon Doo tells her that Woon Ho is leaving and she should go meet him. She arrives at the train station just in time, and the two confess their feelings to each other before going their separate ways. It was the last time she saw him. They kept in touch for a while, considering him going to college in Korea, but one day he stopped responding to her emails. She doesn’t hear from him anymore. Confused and angry, she tries to forget about him until one day she has a blind date with someone who is also named Woon Ho. She bursts into tears and gives him one last call via a phone booth, where she tearfully tells him that she will never think of him again.
Time passes and he is only a distant memory in the back of his head. One day, when she receives an invitation to an art exhibition from a certain Joseph. She understands that it has something to do with Woon Ho and accepts it. At the exhibit, she sees the memories of their time together before being approached by Joseph. He is Woon Ho’s little brother and he tells her that he died all those years ago. But in his short life, he had sincerely loved Bo Ra, and she meant a lot to him.
“20th Century Girl” ends with Bo Ra watching a video that Woon Ho edited of their time together, reliving his memories and feelings from the last year of the 20th century, when their love blossomed.
Final Thoughts: What Works for the “20th Century Girl”?
It’s not a complicated story. The film is clear that it’s a story of love and nostalgia and delivers with precision. Other than the characters feeling a bit clichéd, it gave an overall smooth vibe. The shots are beautiful and the actors are in good shape. There’s no real villain here, just complicated feelings and a little miscommunication that’s not really helped by the lack of cell phones. This movie is a great way to spend two hours on a weekday, and we have no hesitation in recommending it to our friends. K-drama can always be counted on to deliver a good love story, and it’s one of the saving graces of a genre hanging by a thread.
“20th Century Girl” is a 2022 romantic drama film directed by Woo-ri Bang.