Cover The ‘Sweet & Sour’ cast and director during the movie press conference. Photo: Courtesy of Netlifx

In this interview, the Sweet & Sour cast members—Jang Ki-yong, Chae Soo-bin and Jung Soo-jung (Krystal)—talk more about their roles and working with each other while director Lee sheds some light on the creative process

Netflix's new Korean movie offering, Sweet & Sour is a realistic love story that chronicles the changing flavours of love from its tangy beginning and sweet culmination to the bitter aftertaste. It boasts a star-studded line-up of rising stars starring Jang Ki-yong, Chae Soo-bin and Jung Soo-jung (Krystal).

Sweet & Sour has been in Netflix's Top 10 movies in Hong Kong since its release and critics have praised the cast's charms as well as the directing ability. In particular, it showed "romance from a fatigue society" and the pressures of work in modern-day life, especially for young people.

In this interview, the cast—Jang, Chae and Jung—share their thoughts on the movie including why they accepted the role and what's it like working with each other. Director Lee also discusses his creative process and what he wanted to show through the movie.

Read the Netflix interview below:

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What made you take on your role?

Jang Ki-yong: As soon as I read the scenario, I immediately knew it would be so fun to play the part of Jang Hyeok. The scenario was so true to life. I began imagining how I’d play the part and looked forward to it. I’ve never been in a romance film before, so I wanted to try it out as well.

Chae Soo-bin: After reading the scenario, I felt it was special and intriguing. There's a uniqueness to Sweet & Sour in how the film presents romance so realistically. I was drawn to that.

Jung Soo-jung (Krystal): The story was so real that it felt like something one of my friends would say “that actually happened to me!” That kind of realism intrigued me. At the same time, the character Bo-yeong appealed to me because she provides the movie’s dramatic element. I also liked that her story is about someone in my own generation.

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What was your primary focus when playing your character?

Jang: Jang Hyeok, unlike the characters I played before, is not just a cool guy. He's a real guy, with merits but also shortcomings. I focused on making him down to earth. Director Lee Kae-byeok told me to just be myself. He wanted me to use my own tone of voice, my smile and my natural gestures.

Chae: Work stress and fatigue tend to make Da-eun feel more lonely and needy for attention. She wants more commitment than just dating, to get married and have a family. But things don’t work out as she wants them to. I worried about how the viewers would perceive her. On set, I discussed at length with the director about her characterisation. By the time the filming began, I was completely immersed in the role and her point of view.

Krystal: She’s a character who immerses herself in her work and gives her all to what she does. She’s a realistic character who can appear to be extreme. I didn’t want those aspects of her personality to come across as unnatural. So at times when it was difficult to relate to her actions or feelings, I consulted director Lee. My character is a candid person determined to do her best. So I felt that over-analysing her feelings would lessen her overall appeal so I tried to internalise her feelings as is, to convey them as is. I wanted all the different facets of her character to come across as her authentic self.

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The hardships of the current generation are reflected very realistically in this film. What resonated with you most?

Jang: The film well reflects mentally exhausted workers, especially temporary employees. It may seem like you can never win approval no matter how hard you try and you put in so much effort without an idea what it is you’re working for. Regardless of the career field, so many people suffer from this anxiety and restlessness. I’m sure the characters’ stories will resonate with a lot of people.

Chae: For Da-eun, love and career can't easily be separated. Today’s younger generation is living such hectic lives, so it’s a challenge to cram romance into that schedule—that itself was distressing and relatable. In one memorable scene, Jang Hyeok and Da-eun are on a date and talking in a car. The ennui of this longtime couple could be felt, as well as Da-eun’s fear that her boyfriend no longer enjoys spending time with her. The scene was disheartening and relatable at the same time.

Krystal: There is a scene where she is obsessed with perfecting her task. So she doesn’t go home, shower or change her clothes. She explains in tears that she is driven to succeed, even to the point of risking her peace of mind. I could relate because I am similar—maybe not to the extent that she is. When I want or have to do something, I really throw myself into achieving it.

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What's it like working with director Lee Kae-byeok?

Jang: I loved the comedy in his film Luck-Key (2016). I feel lucky because I always wanted to work on a romantic comedy with him. The experience was as fun as I thought it would be and I had a great time on set. Director Lee is great at playing up each actor’s forte and makes us feel at ease on set. Before filming began, I felt a bit burdened by this new role but ended up enjoying it more than I thought.

Chae: We discussed a lot of things on set. Everyone really enjoyed how he enabled the cast to try out different things while filming.

Krystal: Director Lee is so gentle and sweet. He made everyone feel at home on set and we shared so much laughter. Before filming, we discussed how we’d act out each scene. He takes notice of our interactions and spontaneous reactions during rehearsals and incorporates them into scenes. The entire process was very engaging.

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What's it like acting with the other cast members?

Jang: I met them both for the first time on this project. They were exactly how I imagined Da-eun and Bo-yeong to be when I first read the scenario. They're actresses with such good energy and their acting skills helped me to immerse myself in my role.

Chae: Many of the scenes I shared with Jang Ki-yong felt so real that I could easily relate to them. It was so easy to immerse myself and act out of real emotions. I never had the opportunity to be in the same scene with Jung Soo-jung but we talked about how we would have liked that.

Krystal: We’re all similar in age and we got along great. Most of the scenes Bo-yeong was in were with Jang Ki-yong and we had fun filming together. Chae Soo-bin and I are the same age so I wish that we had scenes together. But whenever we got together during meals and chatted about the film, we really clicked.

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What's special about "Sweet & Sour"?

Jang: It’s a realistic romance, something that could actually happen in real life. Romantic partners are not always sweet, and this film vividly depicts the little fights that occur over time. I’m sure many viewers will find the movie relevant.

Chae: The film is so in touch with reality that it will resonate with many of the viewers, evoking emotions from their real-life romantic relationships. There are some unique elements that make the film enjoyable and different from all the rest.

Krystal: Its strong point is its ability to speak to the audience. It makes you think, “What would have I done if I were in that situation?” You could put yourself in the position of Jang Hyeok, Da-eun or Bo-yeong. Regardless of whether you’ve been in a longtime relationship or beginning a new one, this film is going to resonate. The situations for all three characters are so real that you could say while watching the film, “oh, I’ve been there” or “that actually happened to my friend!”

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How did you come up with the idea of "Sweet & Sour"?

Director Lee: My feature debut was the rom-com The Beast and the Beauty (2005). Perhaps that’s the reason I always had this nostalgia for the genre. I wanted to go beyond the ordinary and wanted to portray something new; something a bit more grown-up. Whereas past films of this genre are all about easy laughter and new encounters, Sweet & Sour embraces both the comedy of past rom-coms and also the gritty realness of a true-to-life relationship.

What about the title of the film?

Director Lee: It was by accident. While I was working on the scenario, I had purchased some candy and one of them was the chewy candy called saekomdalkom, which roughly translates to “sweet and sour.” The candy was very tart and sweet that it blew my mind but also melted away so quickly in my mouth that I wanted more. It was such a mystery; a situation where you find yourself repeatedly reaching for something new. I decided then that this candy, which provided me with such a fascinating experience, should be the title of the film

Not only romance, but also the hardships of the current generation are reflected very realistically in this film. Is there a reason you decided to make the film so real?

Director Lee: There are so many obstacles the younger generation these days have to overcome in order to see their romance come to culmination. Considering the conditions of the times, it’s become so difficult to commit to a future with a loved one. I wanted the situations the characters found themselves in to reflect the present reality, and I focused on developing a story that could best represent that. That’s why the characters in Sweet & Sour go through so much hardship in their romance.

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Is there a reason you cast Jang, Chae and Krystal for the film?

Director Lee: I wanted actors with lots of experience or who looked like they would play a character in a melodrama. I wanted characters with an unexpectedness to them, so no one could anticipate the ending. As a result, I began by first casting Jang Ki-yong and Chae Soo-bin. Then I wanted a character who would be the exact opposite of Da-eun in the eyes of Jang Hyeok, who is new to the city. So I decided that an urban, cool-headed and rational character should be placed opposite Da-eun to maximize the feeling of precariousness for his romance. That’s why I chose Jung Soo-jung for the part of Bo-yeong.

What was the overall concept for the cinematography?

Director Lee: The film is in two parts. For the first half, I wanted the first bloom of romance to shine through, so the colours needed to come across as pretty as in a fantasy film. In the second half of the film, I wanted the colours to appear urban and sophisticated. I tried to make the natural light from windows or lamplight at night appear cold and harsh.

Is there a message you want to tell through "Sweet & Sour"?

Director Lee: It’s not easy to start a new romance, to bring it to fruition, or even to forget an old one. For those beginning their journey, I hope you cherish and fulfil that love. If one love has ended for you, then please don’t forget to keep the faith that new love will come for you.

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Above Watch the trailer for "Sweet & Sour"
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