I am on a roll, you guys. I had an inkling, from watching Show’s trailer, that today’s in-flight pick was going to pack a bit of a heart punch, but I had no idea just how much this movie would make me feel, once I hit play. By Show’s last stretch, I was gratefully serving up my heart on a plate, my emotions pulling in so many directions as I did so.
So. Good. <3
Also, I’m starting to suspect that it’s quite possible that any show featuring classical piano as a key theme will turn out to be a good one. I mean, first, Secret Love Affair, then Page Turner, and now this? I might have to make it a point to check out any show featuring classical piano, going forward, for reals.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Jo Ha (Lee Byung Hun) is a boxing has-been. With few prospects and not much money, he ends up living with his estranged mother (Yoon Yeo Jung) and his autistic younger brother Jin Tae (Park Jung Min).
STUFF I ENJOYED
Jo Ha’s reconciliation with Mom
To be sure, Show’s overall arc can be described as predictable, since we can see from the trailer right away, that Jo Ha will be on the road to reconciliation with his mother in our story. More importantly, though, is the fact that Show managed to make the journey feel sincere and heartfelt. I felt Mom’s love for her son, blanketed by guilt, and I felt Jo Ha’s hurt, beneath his gruff indifference. And my heart surged with hope, with every little milestone that we saw, of these two starting to meet each other halfway, through their guilt and hurt.
Here are two key milestones that really stood out for me.
1. Jo Ha losing it during a sparring session, and releasing all his pent-up anger on his opponent, while the memories come flooding back, of Mom being badly beaten up by Dad (Hong Suk Youn). To me, this was such a pivotal moment, because I feel like Jo Ha is finally unlocking his heart, and allowing himself to remember, and to feel, all over again.
2. The night before Mom leaves for her job in Busan, she asks for the photo service at the restaurant, and is turned down. My heart leaped a little, when Jo Ha basically stared the manager down, and got Mom the photo she wanted with her sons. It’s even more heartwarming, when afterwards, Jo Ha accedes to Mom’s request to indulge her in a bit of wine and dancing. Aw.
Jo Ha’s growing bond with Jin Tae
It was also obvious from the trailer, that Jo Ha would go from disdaining his little brother, to loving him, but the journey felt no less meaningful to me, for being “predictable.” My heart enjoyed every little indication that we got, of Jo Ha’s heart softening towards Jin Tae.
Here are two of my favorite scenes where Jo Ha’s care shines through his tough shell.
1. When Jo Ha sees Jin Tae cowering before several bullies, I love how he steps in to defend him, and even intimidates them until they scuttle away. I also very much liked that afterwards, Jo Ha tries to teach Jin Tae a couple of boxing moves, so that Jin Tae can defend himself.
2. I really loved the little almost throwaway detail, of Jo Ha stopping to buy Jin Tae a t-shirt from a street stall, because he’d noticed that the t-shirt Jin Tae was wearing, was in bad shape. And how cute, that he picks a piano t-shirt for Jin Tae, knowing that Jin Tae loves playing the piano. Aw.
Park Jung Min as Jin Tae
Both Lee Byung Hun and Yoon Yeo Jung are excellent as Jo Ha and Mom, but I just had to give a special shout-out to Park Jung Min, who hits it out of the ballpark as Jin Tae.
I have to say that Park Jung Min’s delivery of Jin Tae is just fantastic. From his body language, to his speech patterns, to his facial expressions, he is Jin Tae, child-like and physically awkward in his autism, affectionate despite his limitations, and gloriously masterful on the piano. Kudos, truly.
I hadn’t realized when I started my watch, that Jin Tae was a piano savant, and so I was not at all prepared for the strong presence of classical music, in our story.
Let me just say that I loved the music in this. I am far from an expert in classical music (I was a terrible classical piano student), but I do know that the music in this movie made me feel. As Jin Tae reveled in his music, I could feel my heart swell, buoyed by the music swelling in my ears. It was glorious.
Show’s treatment of autism
I haven’t come across many shows in K-ent that feature autistic characters, much less celebrate an autistic character, so I very much appreciated the way Jin Tae is celebrated in our story.
Sure, there are characters who don’t appreciate him at first, and we do see a fleeting scene of Jin Tae having to face bullies. But by and large, the people around Jin Tae love him and treat him with lots of affection, without condescension. I liked that a lot.
The idea that we save one another [SPOILERS]
Sometime during my watch, it dawned on me that there was a recurring theme, of these characters saving one another. Mom saves Jo Ha by taking him in and giving him a place to say; Han Ga Yool (Han Ji Min) knocks Jo Ha down, but stops to save him; Jo Ha saves Jin Tae from the bullies; Jin Tae saves Ga Yool by reviving her desire to play music; Ga Yool saves Jin Tae by standing up for his talent.
The cycle seems to spin in so many directions, and the inter-saving seems so intricately interwoven, that after a while, it’s hard to keep track anymore, who’s saving who. All I know is, that these characters, each with their own pain and limitations, are saving one another and giving life to one another, and I love that idea, of the sharing and giving of life.
WHAT I WOULD’VE LIKED
If there’s one thing I wished for while watching this movie, it was to see things teased out in more detail. I know it’s hard, coz this is a movie and not a drama, and there’s a limited amount of screen time to work with. But I still couldn’t help feeling like there were times when details were skipped over, and I was watching the highlight reel version of events, rather than walking this journey together with these characters as a fly on their walls.
Nonetheless, Show still manages to pack a heck of an emotional punch, especially in it’s final stretch, and my heart is so full as I finish my watch, that I can’t complain too much.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
This movie left my heart so full; I found myself reeling a little bit, from the waves of emotion that hit me, as I watched the various threads that interwove towards the end.
Jo Ha, coming to the realization that Mom wasn’t working in Busan for a month; she was terminally ill, and trying to hide it from her boys, to protect them. The way he translated the emotion from that realization into anger; the way he went to Dad and told him to stay away from Mom, or else; the way he decided to leave it all behind and go to Canada; the way that determination to leave all melted away when he saw Jin Tae on TV, getting ready to perform on the stage, while contentedly quoting his big brother.
I felt my heart rise in my throat, when I realized Jo Ha was going to take Mom to see her baby – the baby whom she worried most about – play on stage, on the piano that he so loved, with a big orchestra. It was delightful to see Jin Tae be playful onstage, and then it was amazing, to see him take to performing the music like a fish returning to water, and it was beautiful and quite ethereal, to see him just stand at his seat, during the interlude, and just soak in the music as it rose around him, like it was filling his very soul. Wow. Such a sublime moment, that I wanted it to last forever.
It was heart-in-my-throat, tears-in-my-eyes moving, to see Mom’s eyes fill with grateful tears of wonder, as she soaked in the sight of her baby – the very baby whose autism kept him from being a normal part of his world – enjoy the pinnacle of admiration and success, doing his favorite thing in the world. Augh. I felt like her dying wish had been answered over and above anything she could have imagined, and I felt so grateful for her.
And when I saw Jo Ha’s tears while watching his little brother onstage, I knew that this hyung was not going to abandon his little brother ever again, and I felt thankful.
Afterwards, it’s just heartrending and so emotional, to see Jin Tae climb into Mom’s hospital bed, and ask that they go home. It’s so sad that Mom’s time is so limited, but I’m so grateful that Mom got to cuddle her baby one last time. And I am moved to tears, too, by Mom’s earlier promise to Jo Ha, made with tears in her eyes, and a heart obviously so full of love, that if she is born again, that she will love him only, and take care of him only. Blubber. My tears.
After Mom’s funeral, I love that when no one else can find Jin Tae, that Hyung knows exactly where to find him. And I love that he knows that he doesn’t need to go up to Jin Tae and haul him back home; Jin Tae will come to Hyung, when he’s ready. And I love that as they stand together to cross the street, that Jo Ha reaches for his brother’s hand, and they stand like that, hand-in-hand, ready to walk the rest of this journey, together.
Augh. My heart.
I am gutted that Mom couldn’t live on, to be with her sons, but I am so heartened that Jin Tae has his brother to lean on, and that his piano dreams have been unlocked, and that Jo Ha is not alone anymore; he’s got family now. It was a bit of a rocky journey, but these two brothers have finally bonded firmly, and I know that Mom would be comforted, and proud of both her sons, who have, in effect, saved each other. <3
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Heartrending in some ways, but even more heartwarming, comforting, and uplifting, in others.
FINAL GRADE: A