Must-See Movie Review: 'The Royal Tailor' (2014)

“The Royal Taylor” takes a dramatic look at the saying “out with the old, in with the new.” It is a story that starts with a strong sense of comedy before turning a few shades darker. The movie begins in the present day at a press conference that unveils the works of Jo Dol-seok, the royal tailor during Korea’s Joseon dynasty. As his works are displayed, the film flashes back to the Joseon era, taking us behind the seams of the clothes that defined an era and a pivotal friendship.

We are introduced to Jo Dol-seok (Han Suk-kyu), the royal tailor whose works determine the fashion of the day. Needing emergency assistance to deal with the King’s damaged garment, the Queen (Park Shin-hye) is guided to an outsider to help fix it. This is when she meets Lee Gong-jin (Go Soo), a talented young designer. Gong-jin’s talents are as irrepressible as his good-natured spirit and before long; Dol-seok sees a rival for his position at court.

Two men with two visions and only one world to see them realized in. You can see where the conflict will lie and yet a friendship develops between the two. While Gong-jin is excited to learn and create, he underestimates his own talents and their implications. His skills are something that Dol-seok is alarmingly aware and begrudgingly jealous of. The key to progress is the old and the new forging a collective vision for a stronger future. The fashion world is no different.

Directed with powerful poignancy by Lee Won-suk, “The Royal Tailor” tells a story that is as intricately layered as the clothes that comprise its story. There are heroes, heroines, and complex villains. Much like Gong-jin’s designs, the movie's characters are colorful, with no room for stark characterizations.

The Queen’s relationship with Gong-jin is tender and beautiful, but never crosses the line of betrayal. It is a quintessential “courtly love” story, and it is refreshing to watch unfold, because neither character loses their moral fiber, in its midst.

The tale weaved in “The Royal Tailor” is one of the most powerful to have ever been put on-screen. This movie embroiders itself onto the heart in a remarkable way that assures it will forever be stitched into the soul of anyone who sees it.

The performances of the cast help move the needle and thread with expert precision. Han Suk-kyu and Go Soo both give masterful performances that imbue their characters a dimensional quality that goes beyond words. It is what they say with their eyes that generates the depth behind the words spoken.

“The Royal Tailor” is an indelible and haunting film with impeccable fashions that put the costume in costume drama. It is beautifully filmed and stunningly crafted. Even as one may wonder where its story is going, there is no inkling as to where that destination is. Nor is there any boredom that sets in as you attempt to figure it out. “The Royal Tailor” is a spellbinding fashion epic that will leave you contemplating life, love, friendship, and the cost of progress.

Rating: 10/10

"The Royal Tailor" is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime. I would like to thank Alexandria Constantinova Szeman for bringing this movie to my attention via her terrific review. You can read it here.

[Featured Image by Showbox/Finecut]