Love On-Air (Wonderful Radio) is one of those films that were seemingly made for one specific viewing audience in mind, with that viewership being one that likes to indulge in the same tired sentimental tropes expressed in film after film. Director Kwon Chil-In, a veteran on of the romantic genre, continues in Love On-Air his tradition of somehow squeezing in elements of romanticism amidst a plethora of exhausted plot devices that seem oddly out of place and derive purely from the realm of melodrama. One could see that this approach could in fact work if given enough creativity to back it, but Kwon decides to play it safe for the most part. Who can blame him? As a formula that has been tirelessly implemented throughout countless South Korean films in the last decade, its success as a genre stems largely from its contrived melodrama—an approach that Love On-Air audaciously relies upon to advance its story.
One could say that such overly sentimental elements are necessary in order to win a majority of the audience over, but Love On-Air takes it a step further by actually showcasing scenes that have radio guests express their deepest desires, fears, and regrets, with radio disc jockey Shin Jin-A (Lee Min-Jung) beckoning them on. It’s not that these scenes aren’t deemed important towards the narrative of the film—especially in regards to Shin’s past—it’s that they seem completely out of place and are only shown to artificially amp up the melodrama. When the camera holds its focus on an emotionless character having a stream of tears rolling down their face for upwards of fifteen seconds, we know the film is trying a tad too hard elicit an emotion response from the viewer. While we see the film jump from love story, to parental problems, to even the dynamics of the music industry, Love On-Air is simply attempting to tackle too much at once, a move that immensely weakens the overall appeal of the film both from an emotional and structural point.
The performances by Lee Min-Jung and Lee Kwang-Soo don’t fare much better. Lee Min-Jung, while certainly a beautiful actress with a talent for singing, doesn’t quite deliver a believable performance of the past-stricken and vulnerable Shin Jin-A. Her character is simply unlikeable and rude, which really dampens her later transformation to a character we are suppose to cheer for in her endeavors as a comeback pop star. By the middle of the film, most viewers will simply view her as an uncaring and selfish individual who pretty much despises everyone around her, yet we are suppose to care for her by the film’s conclusion? This simply isn’t going to happen. On the other hand, Lee Kwang-Soo, who plays the strict radio producer Lee Jae-Ik, brings about a stoic performance that does nothing to strengthen the alleged romantic chemistry shared between him and Shin Jin-A. The romantic elements of the film are considerably lacking here, no doubt due to the lackluster chemistry between the two and the narrative jumping from one subject to another in a bewildered fashion.
Overall, Love On-Air is a film that one will soon forget after viewing it. It’s simply one of those films that safely nestles the viewer into a comfortable narrative structure that is neither creative nor original, thus easily winning over gullible viewers time and time again within its traditional format. There was so much potential to be found in the film—exploring the music industry, love within the workplace, and even the deconstruction of the pop idol image itself—but sadly is never courageous enough to effectively tackle these issues. Love On-Air falls directly into the path of unoriginality, which unfortunately makes it a largely forgettable and stale viewing experience.