The moment I set my eyes on this movie and its synopsis, I knew I wanted to watch it, and soon.
An underdog story about an epic friendship between two individuals who complement each other’s weaknesses with their own strengths? And with Shin Ha Kyun and Lee Kwang Soo starring, no less?
YES PLEASE, SIGN ME UP! 🤩
Gosh, how had I even managed to let this one fly under my radar?
Psst: Links to watch are at the end of the review!
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Se Ha (Shin Ha Kyun) is a quadriplegic with a brilliant mind, while Dong Goo (Lee Kwang Soo) is physically strong and healthy, but with the mental capacity of a 5-year-old.
The two become friends as children, and thereafter become inseparable, living almost as a single entity.
This movie is inspired by a true story.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS / THE VIEWING LENS
Here are a couple of things that I think would be useful to keep in mind, to maximize your enjoyment of your watch:
1. Think bromance, not romance.
Even though Show introduces a pretty young lady to our story in the form of Esom’s character, this is not designed to be a romance at all, so it’s best to manage your expectations on that front.
Instead, think friendship and bromance; that’s where it’s at, with this story.
2. Think gray characters, rather than good or bad characters.
Some of our characters engage in some questionable behavior over the course of our story, but mostly, it’s all in the name of survival.
My advice would be not to sweat these details, if you can help it, because they aren’t really the main point of our story.
STUFF I LIKED
Shin Ha Kyun as Se Ha
You might think that playing a quadriplegic who’s a little on the stoic side might be easy, since he doesn’t move his body, and he’s a bit on the gruff side, and therefore may not need to be super expressive.
That’s not the case at all, from what I can see.
It must be hard to not move any muscles from the neck down, especially in scenes where Se Ha falls down, but Shin Ha Kyun is completely committed to the role, even if it means falling flat on his face.
And, even though Se Ha is technically a little on the stoic side of things, Shin Ha Kyun does such a great job showing us glimpses of Se Ha’s emotions, that I never felt like I had to guess at what Se Ha was feeling.
All in all, Shin Ha Kyun does a fantastic job playing Se Ha, so much so that I could believe that he was Se Ha, from the inside out.
Lee Kwang Soo as Dong Goo
Lee Kwang Soo does an amazing job portraying developmentally challenged Dong Goo. I feel like he deserves at least a standing ovation.
All of Dong Goo’s physical twitches and quirks look completely natural to me, and for the entire duration of this movie, I kind of forgot that Lee Kwang Soo isn’t actually Dong Goo. That’s how natural I found his performance.
As ungainly as Dong Goo is, Lee Kwang Soo manages to make him endearing, in his childlike ways.
Just, altogether very excellent. 🤩
Se Ha and Dong Goo together
Watching Se Ha and Dong Goo together, was THE highlight of the movie, for me.
It’s just so touching, really, to see them be so patient with each other, and take care of each other, in all the ways they can help each other.
It’s so perfect, the way Dong Goo is able to do all the able-bodied things for Se Ha, while Se Ha’s able to speak on Dong Goo’s behalf, even as he teaches Dong Goo about all the basic things that Dong Goo needs to know, in life.
Even though their friendship is only gruff, there is so much heart in there, at the same time, and it’s impossible to miss.
My favorite thing of all, is how organically they fit into each other’s lives. The way they help each other is so matter-of-fact, it’s like a reflex, almost, because it’s become such a big part of their lives.
Also, I loved the scenes of Dong Goo asking Se Ha questions, as they lie down to sleep at night. It feels like such an intimate, familial sort of teaching moment, when Se Ha answers those questions, in a way that Dong Goo can understand.
Esom as Mi Hyun
The introduction of Mi Hyun as a character feels slightly random, but it really wasn’t long before I felt like she was a reasonably natural addition to our central duo.
Even though Mi Hyun’s listed as a main character, I’d say that she’s more of a key supporting character; a catalyst of sorts, for some of our narrative developments.
Esom does a nice job of the role, and overall, I found her sweet and likable.
Ahn Ji Hyo and Kim Hyun Bin as young Se Ha and Dong Goo
I just wanted to give a shout-out to the younger actors who play our central duo, because they nail it, and so well.
I could literally believe that these two grow up into Shin Ha Kyun’s and Lee Kwang Soo’s versions of the characters.
The body language, cadences of speech and overall vibe are spot-on, and I was very, very impressed.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
It’s not a complete surprise, that Dong Goo chooses to live with his mother (Gil Hae Yeon), after observing Mi Hyun taking care of Se Ha, over several different occasions.
I’m guessing that Dong Goo felt like Mi Hyun was taking over his role in Se Ha’s life, and therefore, Se Ha didn’t need him anymore.
And probably part of the reason was that, as Mi Hyun put it, Dong Goo actually was trying to pave the way for Se Ha and Mi Hyun to be together, without him.
Augh. What a heartbreaking misunderstanding, honestly.
While it was sort of nice to see Dong Goo being welcomed by Mom’s new family, and being made to feel at home, it was hard to watch Dong Goo struggle to get used to his new life.
And, it was heartbreaking to see that Dong Goo really does miss Se Ha a lot, so much so that the thought of Se Ha navigating life on his own, sends him into a panic attack. Aw.
I’m so glad that Se Ha does decide to go to the swimming competition, even hightailing his way there, on his new motorized wheelchair.
And GUH, when Se Ha falls flat on his face while trying to get there, it’s so touching, that the message he leaves on Mi Hyun’s phone, is to ask her to make sure that Dong Goo’s mom waits for Dong Goo at the finish line, because that’s the only way Dong Goo would finish the race.
Gurgle. What a heartwrenching flashback we get, to the day Dong Goo had been abandoned, so many years ago, at the pool.
How cruel, that Mom had told him to swim a set of laps, telling him that she’d be waiting for him at the end – only for him to find that he’d been abandoned.
GAH. It’s no wonder Dong Goo couldn’t finish the race the last time either, and it’s so poignant, that Se Ha understood exactly why.
These two really understand each other, and are closer than actual blood brothers.
I’m so glad that as a result of this, Dong Goo reaches a new compromise with Mom.
Instead of living with her while being apart from Se Ha, Dong Goo shares that new apartment with Se Ha (yay for apartment lotteries, heh!), and Mom visits and fusses over both of them, like she’s gained a son. Aw.
I love this compromise, so very much, because it means that Dong Goo doesn’t have to choose between Se Ha and Mom. Instead, he gets to have the best of both worlds. AND, Se Ha kinda-sorta gains a mom, in a way, which is a really nice bonus.
And how fun, that we get to see Mi Hyun still hanging out with them, even though she’s now found a full-time job, thanks to Se Ha’s touching recommendation on her volunteer report, that while they were with her, they forgot that they were disabled.
Gosh, that is such high praise. I love it. 🥲
I couldn’t ask for a better ending, where Se Ha and Dong Goo get to do life together, living the symbiotic life, while still being independent individuals, and getting to also enjoy the love and regular company of family and friends.
Very, very lovely. ❤️
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Heartfelt, heartwarming and altogether quite stirring.
FINAL GRADE: A
WHERE TO WATCH:
GETTING AROUND GEO-RESTRICTIONS
If you’re geo-restricted, a VPN service would help you get around that. Not only does it provide online safety, it also gives you access to lots of great geo-restricted content.
I personally use NordVPN. You can find my review of NordVPN here.
You can use my affiliate link (here!) to enjoy up to 60% * off, with prices starting as low as US$3.29 per month.
* This used to say 73%, but because NordVPN’s changed the way it calculates the discount, it now says 60%. BUT, it’s the same great price, starting from US$3.29 a month!
An article on why it’s not illegal to use a VPN to access legal streaming content can be found here.