「건축학개론」 / 「Architecture 101」 is a Korean movie about first loves and making decisions. This 2012 film stars 「Uhm Tae Woong」 and 「Han Ga Inn」 as the adult 「Seung Min Lee」 and 「Seo Yun Yang」, and 「Lee Je Hoon」 and 「Suzy」 as the younger 「Seung Min」 and 「Seo Yun」 who first met in college in Architecture 101.
Relive your first love
Seoul, the present day. Out of the blue, architect Lee Seung-min is approached by Yang Seo-yeon, whom he knew at college some 17 years previously, to design a new house for her on the site of her 30-year-old family home on Jeju island. Seung-min reluctantly agrees but can’t come up with a design that pleases her. In the end, they decide to renovate and expand the existing house, and he and Seo-yeon spend a considerable amount of time together down in Jeju, to the growing annoyance of his fiancée Eun-chae, with whom he is soon to be married and move to the US. As Seo-yeon cares for her dying father and Seung-min learns more about what became of Seo-yeon in the intervening years, he recalls their initial meeting at college in the early 1990s.1
In the past, when they were young, Seung-min and Seo-yeon had lived in the same neighborhood (Jeongneung-dong, Seoul) and attended the same architecture class. He remembers her liking rich student Jae-wook, his inability to declare his attraction to her, and the times being coached by his best friend, Nab-ddeuk in how to get girls. Hoping to confess his feelings to her at the perfect timing, Seung-min asks Seo-yeon to meet him at the abandoned house they frequent, on the first day that it snows that coming winter. But one night he catches Jae-wook and a drunk Seo-yeon entering her house together. Fearing the worst, he ends his friendship with Seo-yeon due to his pain of believing she had chosen Jae-wook. The first day of snow arrives, and Seo-yeon is left waiting in the abandoned house alone. Heartbroken, she leaves behind her portable CD player with a CD of her favorite artist.1
Seo-yeon in the present day receives that very same CD player and CD from Seung-min, meaning that he actually went to the house later and remembered their promise. But despite the bitter-sweetness of their first love, in the end, Seung-min still chooses his fiancée Eun-chae and flies with her to America, while Seo-yeon sits in the house he built for her, listening to the CD.1
While this received high ratings in Korea, it was underrated abroad where Asian drama fans are always expecting deep romance and giggles. This drama is beyond that, it tackles our “first loves” when we were young, the hopes, the dreams, that feeling of having first fallen in love with someone we totally did not expect but in the end it did not work. Later in life, when we have moved on and our paths crossed again with our first love, it’s all about how we handle those feelings and making adult decisions, very hard adult decisions which can make or break relationships and our future.
Architecture 101 is for adults who have faced and went through life and the challenges it threw toward us. I do not recommend this to young adults and teenagers as most of them will never appreciate the beauty of the story. Yet highly recommended for anyone who wants to capture the long lost hope, beautiful smiles, and sweet memories that only a first love can ever give.
For the story, I give 10 out of 10 stars. Acting performance and music get 9.5, and overall, it’s a full 10 from me.