Merry Christmas, everyone!!
I thought this would be an apt post for today, since some of you might be looking for a movie to watch during the holidays.
If you’re looking for some rustic countryside vibes, all sorts of relationship feels, with a side of introspection, growth and gratitude, this could be just your ticket.
Psst! Links to watch are at the end of the post!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Hak Soo (Park Jung Min) is a rapper who’s struggling to succeed in the city. One day, he has reason to return to his hometown Byeonsan, and ends up being confronted by, and having to grapple with, the people and relationships that he’d thought he’d left behind.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a couple of things that I think would be helpful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. There’s a slight meandering feel to this, which I find characteristic of stories set in the countryside. Expecting it, rather than fighting it, would probably be helpful, I think.
2. Show takes its time, a little bit. Unlike most movies where I feel like we’re only getting the highlight reel of our characters’ relationships, this movie’s 2-hour running time allows us to explore the relationships a little better. I actually liked this.
3. People can get a little rough in their words and actions, in this story world. No need to be bothered by this, I think. I believe part of it is meant for humor, and part of it, is just to show how familiarity is expressed, in this small town.
STUFF I LIKED
1. Park Jung Min as Hak Soo.
I have to say, I am very impressed by Park Jung Min in this.
Not only does he make Hak Soo feel real, in all of his hapless bemusement, he does all of Hak Soo’s rapping, even though he’s not a rapper. He literally trained with professional rappers for a year, and also wrote lyrics for the raps featured in our story. MAD PROPS.
Also, I didn’t even recognize him as the savant pianist from Keys To The Heart, which is another movie I really enjoyed.
2. Kim Go Eun as Sun Mi.
I thought Kim Go Eun was great as Hak Soo’s old classmate, who had nursed a huge crush on him in school, and who’s now perhaps rather disappointed by him. Having recently watched Kim Go Eun in Yumi’s Cells, I am happily impressed with how she comes across as a completely different person, as Sun Mi.
It feels like Kim Go Eun put on a bit of weight for the role (either that, or they used special makeup on her?); the fuller face is very cute on her, and makes her look extra youthful and innocent.
I really enjoyed the various facets of Sun Mi’s character. Most of the time, she comes across as so patient, long-suffering and pure-hearted, but sometimes, she is also very surprising, in the best ways.
3. Familiar faces in supporting roles.
I didn’t really study the cast list too closely before watching this movie, so I was pleasantly surprised to find familiar faces gracing my screen, as supporting characters.
I was tickled to see Go Joon, whom I most recently saw as a sweet boyfriend sort in Oh My Baby, play a burly thug-gangsta type here, and I was also amused to see Shin Hyun Bin play a Flirty Pretty Girl, since I recently watched her as a nerdy-dorky Plain Jane type in Hospital Playlist 1 & 2.
Also! Kim Joon Han, who plays Ahn Chi Hong in Hospital Playlist, is here too, as a somewhat sleazy oily guy.
Such fun, to see them all play against type (ok, against type in my head anyway).
4. The rap songs.
I am not a particular fan of rap, and so I don’t know much about it, but I have to say, the rap songs in this, which are meant to be free-style interpretations of Hak Soo’s life, really started to get under my skin, the deeper I got into our story.
I’m just SO blown away, to realize that Park Jung Min wrote the songs himself! 🤯🤩
5. The rustic countryside feels.
I’ve come to really enjoys stories set in the countryside, like When The Camellia Blooms, Racket Boys and Hometown Cha Cha Cha. This feels like a good dose of the countryside feels, but packaged in a 2-hour serving instead of a 16-hour one.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
Honestly, I really, really like the central idea of this movie, that the reason Hak Soo hasn’t been successful as an artist, is because he’s got all this unresolved emotional baggage. It’s because of all this unresolved angst, that he can’t express himself as an artist, and gets all jumbled up and unable to get into the flow.
I like the idea, that his return to his hometown, isn’t so much about the magic of the countryside or of the people whom he’d left behind. It really is all about resolving the big emotional wounds in his life, so that he can move forward.
The big face-off with Yong Dae (Go Joon) at the mudflats, where they finally work through all the resentment they hold towards each other, is a big part of it. Hak Soo’s last moments with his father, is another big part of it.
It’s sad that Hak Soo’s father (Jang Hang Seon) dies, but it’s so important, that Hak Soo clears the air with Dad, before Dad dies. His estranged relationship with his father, has been one of the biggest burdens of his life, and with Dad being regretful on his deathbed, and telling Hak Soo that living well is the best revenge, it feels like a lot of things click for Hak Soo.
How perfect, that there’s gas money left over after all the funeral expenses; it had been Dad’s worry, that Hak Soo wouldn’t have enough gas money to return to Seoul. And also, how unintentionally pitch perfect, is the fact that Dad’s gangster gold chain is the one thing that Dad leaves behind, for Hak Soo. After all, that’s a pretty classic rapper accessory, isn’t it?
Thereafter, I love that Hak Soo’s freestyle rapping takes on such a reflective, thought-through, mature sort of vibe, like he’s not just lived life, but has processed it, with heart, mind and soul.
I love that he pours himself so fully into expressing himself as an artist, and I love that scene where we see him take to the stage and perform, with so much in-the-zone, vulnerable swag.
And, it’s just perfect, that Sun Mi’s right there in the audience, with starry eyes and spazzy squeals. The Hak Soo whom she’d fallen for, is now properly back, with a little help from her, and it’s fantastic that he realizes this – and confesses his love for her right back, in the middle of his performance. Ahhh! That’s probably Sun Mi’s ultimate fangirl dream, heh.
I love the highlight reel of their wedding, that we get, as the credits roll. It’s adorable how squealy and thrilled Sun Mi is, at her own wedding, and it’s just really, really satisfying, to see these two be so elated, to have their happy-ever-after, together. ❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Engaging, heartwarming and satisfying, with a large side serving of poignance.
FINAL GRADE: B++
WHERE TO WATCH:
If you’re geo-restricted, you can use Opera’s free, built-in, unlimited VPN to get around geo-restrictions. A tutorial on that can be found here, and an article on why it’s not illegal to use a VPN to access legal streaming content can be found here. You can also sign up for a free account with ProtonMail. All their users get access to their VPN service for free.