It’s the year 1753 and drought and famine have savaged the countryside, leaving peasants on the verge of rebelling against the crown. King Yeonjo (Kim Sang-kyung) is determined not to let this happen, and, thanks to the suggestions of his advisers, he decides the only way to make it rain is to arrange the marriage of his daughter Princess Songhwa (Shim Eun-kyung). He recruits the help of astrologer Seo Do-yoon (Lee Seung-gi), who is tasked to find out which relationship is written in the stars, and who is a perfect match for her. Having had her fate decided for her up to this point, the Princess wants none of it. Seeking control of her own destiny for once, Songhwa decides to investigate the four men who have been singled out as her potential suitors, no matter the consequences.
Escaping the palace under the guise of her personal maid, the Princess travels across the capital to see exactly who these men are, and whether she wants to marry them. It is during this adventure (of sorts) that she gets to know matchmaker Do-yoon. The man, believing she is the princess’ aid who stole the documents with the suitors saju (their year, month, day and hour of birth) written on them, decides to keep an eye on her as she researches the potential husbands only to find himself drawn to her romantically. Their relationship develops in a sweet and natural way, and they even have a rather amusing first encounter early on that sees them -in true K-drama fashion- accidentally kiss.
The Princess and the Matchmaker is one of those feel-good romantic comedies that’s sure to leave a smile on your face, especially thanks to its adorable and delightfully cheesy narrative. For K-drama fans, this film has the same feel and tone as a typical series of the same genre, complete with its own dramatic sub-plot of betrayal behind-the-scenes. What’s more, Shim’s Princess is a refreshing take on the heroine that often appears in this type of story thanks to her strong-willed personality and desire for independence. She’s not one to hold back or keep her thoughts to herself, and that’s what makes her such a relatable character.
It’s not all about the romance though, as there’s also the scheming between the King’s consort, the men loyal to her, and the Princess’ suitor Yoon Shi-kyung (Yeon Woo-jin). Determined to get ahead, and give her son the chance to become king, she’s desperate to influence Do-yoon’s matchmaking so that he favours her choice of husband for Songhwa. She proves quickly that she’ll do whatever it takes to achieve her goal, and while it’s a sub-plot that’s not as fully developed as it could have been due to the constraints of the film’s running-time, it does provide enough drama to up the stakes in the story. Thanks to this, the adorable relationship between the two main protagonists, and its strong female lead, The Princess and the Matchmaker is an entertaining, upbeat drama that’s a match made in heaven.
The Princess and the Matchmaker was screened as part of the London Korean Film Festival.