“Right Now, Wrong Then” almost feels like a “How to/How not to”-video-guide for dates. On the surface, it tells the same story twice, but nevertheless, in certain important regards both iterations are also quite different. The first half is very awkward, while the second half is far more pleasant. By using the same people in pretty much the same situation, “Right Now, Wrong Then” makes a point of how even slight changes can make a vast difference – and also that since none of us is the same each and every day, catching someone at the exact right time might be just as important as who the other person is in the first place.
In order to be able to end on a positive note, “Right Now, Wrong Then” starts with the version of their date that doesn’t go especially well. The main problem of that approach should be self-evident: It’s not that much fun watching those two people not having that much fun. The first half of the movie is like being stuck on a terrible date, but with both not having the guts to proclaim that it’s not working, and simply calling it a day. Thus, the viewers find themselves very much in the same spot as the characters. It’s awkward and annoying and strenuous – which, of course, is exactly the point, but that doesn’t make the first half any more entertaining. Plus, compared to the second half, which is far more pleasant in itself, it also has to do without the fascination of comparing both iterations, looking for the differences, and noting how even small changes can have a huge effect. Sang-soo Hong’s theatrical approach of using very long takes without any cuts also doesn’t help, insofar as in order to keep the flow of the movie/the scenes, he had no chance to cut anything, like certain lines, awkward pauses, longer stretches of silence etc. Which, again, makes it very realistic – after all, we also can’t fast-forward in real life – but again doesn’t necessarily help the first half when it comes to its entertainment value. The second one more than makes up for that, though. Suddenly, everything runs smoother, and because of that, the movie is much more charming and enjoyable. It’s obvious that in essence, they’re both still the same, but they seem to be in a much better mood, and they also act a lot less tense and awkward. Plus – as just mentioned – it was very interesting to observe the differences between both versions of the story. A strength that both iterations share are the actors, which seem even more impressive once you see the second half, and where you can make out many subtle differences. Also, there’s suddenly chemistry where there wasn’t any before. That alone is quite an impressive feat. Overall, “Right Now, Wrong Then” is an interesting study in romantic acquaintances, and while the first half may not be especially entertaining, the second half, as well as the interesting concept behind it, more than made up for that.