Words that spring to my mind as the credits roll for this movie: uplifting, bittersweet, poignant, and even a little funny.
This is, again, one of those movies that I wouldn’t have watched, but for the in-flight entertainment system. Not that there weren’t other solid movies available in-flight. I actually started on Sado, but bailed hastily when Show got very dark, heavy and bloody very quickly. [MINOR SPOILER] I just couldn’t watch the violent head-banging. So Much Blood. Owww. [END SPOILER] Maybe another time, when I feel like I’m made of steelier stuff, I’ll give it another go.
For now, though, I’m actually rather pleased with myself for wimping out of Sado (thank you, Wimpy Me), coz I would’ve been rather sorry to have missed this little heart-warmer.
The premise of this movie is a little fantastical, but not unfamiliar to k-ent’s recent penchant for swopped lives (I haven’t checked it out yet, but Come Back, Ahjusshi comes to mind).
Uhm Jung Hwa plays Lee Yeon Woo, a career-minded, aloof single lawyer, who accidentally dies before her time, thanks to a heavenly mix-up. She agrees to an otherworldly exchange: live out someone else’s final month (that poor soul got fast-tracked to the afterlife by mistake too), and afterwards, get her old life back.
The set-up isn’t surprising, nor is her trajectory, nor the themes around which the movie is built. In fact, if you’ve seen other movies with similar premises, you could even say that this movie’s pretty predictable.
Still, I found it a pleasant, engaging watch overall, and was a little sorry to see it end.
STUFF I LIKED
1. Uhm Jung Hwa as Lee Yeon Woo
I must say, Uhm Jung Hwa is a great pick to play Yeon Woo. She’s equally convincing playing all the different facets of her role.
There’s Ruthless Yeon Woo, who’s all business and has no time for “frivolous” things like men and feelings and family; Confused Yeon Woo, who wonders what she’s gotten herself into; Happy Yeon Woo, who learns how to care for the family that she suddenly finds herself part of; and Uhm Jung Hwa absolutely nails every flickering emotion.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Yeon Woo find herself – and life, and love – over the course of our story.
2. Song Seung Hun as Sung Hwan
I really liked Song Seung Hun in this role, you guys. I mean, he actually comes across as very likable and natural, and I totally believed him in the role. Since I’d last seen him in Obsessed, where I’d found him rather stiff (though very earnest), this comes as a Very Happy Surprise indeed.
I don’t know if Oppa suddenly found his acting groove, or if this is the type of role that suits his abilities best; he’s great in this, and I’d love to see him like this more often.
He looks relaxed onscreen, even, as he plays Yeon Woo’s confused husband, and good-natured, loving father to his two kids. As I watched him on my screen, I couldn’t help but want to be his neighbor or something, so that I’d be able to see him tease his kids and horse around with them, as he and his family lived their lives next door.
3. Yeon Woo’s growing Mom Instincts
This is truly the most heartwarming arc in the entire movie, as Yeon Woo, previously cold, disdainful and even a little terrified of kids, comes to care for her children, and eventually, even love them desperately.
I really liked how Show handled the development of Yeon Woo’s relationship with her kids, in that it’s built through the everyday moments that feel real and mundane, yet still add up to something meaningful. On top of that, the significant milestones in their relationship feel raw and tender, and it feels like Yeon Woo weathers crucial, life-defining moments with her children; moments that will prove to be critical and formative in her kids’ lives. None of it feels manufactured or treacly, and the resulting fierce bond between them is very believable.
When Yeon Woo did her desperate best to give her best goodbye and best advice and best love to her children in the short few minutes she had before she had to leave, I really felt her despair and helplessness. My heart leaped with hope when she told Heavenly Ahjusshi (Kim Sang Ho) without hesitation, that she’d trade her old life to stay as these kids’ mom, and I felt almost as crushed as Yeon Woo did, when she was told that it just wasn’t possible.
Such poignant, heartwarming goodness, teased out within a relatively short time. I have to give major props to Uhm Jung Hwa, as well as Seo Shin Ae and Jung Ji Hoon, who play her kids. Palpable emotions all-around, so much so that I wanted them to be hers, and her, theirs, forever.
CLOSING THOUGHTS [SPOILERS]
The ending is pretty bittersweet, any way I slice it.
I knew that Yeon Woo wouldn’t be able to not leave, given the whole keeping-the-universe-in-balance sort of premise we start with, and as I grew to enjoy Yeon Woo and her new family more and more, my dread at her unavoidable departure grew as well. I really wanted her to be able to just stay on, and live her new life, and be the good mom and loving wife and all-around caring person that she’d finally learned to be.
But, since her departure was a given, I felt that Show gave us the best ending possible. Yeon Woo gets a chance to right the wrongs in her original life, and choose a new way of life that’s more fulfilling. She gets to heal her relationship – or at least her own angst – with both of her deceased parents. And, she also gets to meet her Momentary Family again and see that her son is not sick anymore. And, the open ending even gives room for her to potentially build a new relationship with the family that she’d grown to love, in the one month that she’d been a part of them.
It’s a little sad, in that even if she does get to build a new relationship with them and become a part of them again, she’ll never be truly able to regain the place that she’d had in their hearts, for a while. She’ll never be her kids’ birth mom again; she’ll never be the mother of Sung Hwan’s children; they’ll never share the memories they used to. But, it really is the best ending that Show could’ve given us, and for that, I’m content.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
An uplifting and engaging watch, few surprises in the plot notwithstanding.
FINAL GRADE: B