A genre melting pot by first feature director-writer Hwang In-ho, My Girlfriend Can See Ghosts attempts to fuse all of South Korea's best genres into one. The result might not please discerning audiences, but it sure is a lot of fun especially with the sweet chemistry between lead cast Son Ye-jin and Lee Min-ki.
Primarily a romance comedy at its core, Hwang boasts a good showcase of his directorial range as he tinkers between romance comedy, horror, and melodrama. The film material allows a number of "hot-cold" treatments that leave one rushing towards multiple emotional reactions. This is what happens when we observe extreme genres interacting with one another on the same silver screen.
With the genre switching, it resembles lightly an emotional roller coaster ride.
Technically, the transitions between genres often felt jarring if not for female lead Son whose performance range made the transitions comfortable with her well-liked onscreen character. No doubt, she is the centre of attraction driving the film on besides the amusing chemistry between Lee and her. From her opening deadpan looks to her goofy charms (that warms up to intensive alcoholic lubrication), her drastic ability to transform is commendable.
Hwang attempts to experiment on genres by rejuvenating romance comedy with a decent dosage of horror. One will not expect genuine scares in this context, but Hwang constructs them so well that a number of audience members in my screening recline deeper into their seats to seek solace during the frights.
A promising talent in the horror genre indeed.
"Why is it always that the female lead in horror films always end up lonely and not falling in love?", Lee queries in the film as Son replies "If so, the horror will end up in melodrama". Indeed, Hwang tries to address those questions and eventually works his way towards melodrama. While the horror and romance comedy are well-handled, the melodrama felt weak in comparison. The lack of grandeur dramatic soundtrack during the melodramatic scenes may be the reason this film lacks the ability to create tearjerking moments.
Despite having a longer than required running time of a little under two hours, the film's conclusion feels surprisingly rush and obligatory and dampens an otherwise enjoyable genre experiment that delivers an optimistic amount of fun and laughter.
Melodrama is wielded in Hwang's film albeit not emotive. You may leave your tissue napkins at home for this, unless you tend to tear from extended laughter.