By LEE Hwa-jung
The film starts off like any other romantic movie about two inseparable love birds in their twenties. Hyung-joo puts together a home-made lunchbox for his girlfriend Yeon-hee. Before closing the lid, he completes the lunchbox by drawing a heart with ketchup sauce on the grilled sausages he has happily prepared for his loving other-half. But to Hyungjoo’s disappointment, Yeon-hee is not impressed. he even pulls out pricey entrance tickets to a theme park, but he boldly rejects his presents and says he has other commitments.
The viewers will naturally wonder why Yeon-hee turns down Hyung-joo’s efforts to win his heart. A typical romance genre film may have ushered Yeon-hee to fall in love with another man. But In Front of the House is more than just a typical love story. The plot twist kicks in when the suspicious Hyung-joo quietly follows Yeonhee after they quarrel. Hyung-joo’s doubts are soon outrun by a sense of shock when he sees that Yeon-hee is headed to a place that he least expected. The girl he has been shadowing stops when he arrives home at a run-down shelter in the middle of a shanty town.
For many, the title In Front of the House may carry romantic connotations, as the location often relates to kisses goodbye after memorable dates. But in the capitalist world that we live in, one’s front porch symbolizes more than just rosy “butterflies-in-the-stomach” emotions. In fact, where you live can indirectly represent your wealth and social status. What Hyung-joo witnessed was not simply Yeon-hee’s house but also his poor living standards, unimaginably poor to a middle class apartment dweller like himself.
Suddenly for Hyung-joo, pure love for Yeon-hee seems not enough to fill the social wealth gap that he did not know existed between them. After Hyung-joo’s secret discovery, he can no longer bring himself to face Yeon-hee the same way. And that is where the movie ends. The last scene shows Hyung-joo staring blankly at his flashy apartment in the distance while standing next to the run-down slums a symbolic snapshot that captures the wealth gap still evident in the capitalist era of the 21st century.