Director: Choi Kook-hee
Cast: Ryu Seung-ryong, Yum Jung-ah, Ong Seong-wu, Park Se-wan
Runtime: 2 hrs 2 mins
Rating: PG (Some Sexual References)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 3 November 2022
Synopsis: Se-yeon who has devoted her entire life to her family as a mother and wife, suddenly learns she is gravely ill. Now determined to live for herself more than ever, Se-yeon leaves in search of her 'first love' from her high school. Though unhappy with his wife's decision, Se-yeon's stern husband, Jin-bong goes along on her search to honor her earnest wishes. Through their journey together, Se-yeon and Jin-bong are reminded of the most glittering, beautiful moments of their lives.
If you sang “Dancing Queen” along with Meryl Streep as she belted the beloved ABBA tune in Phyllida Lloyd’s jukebox musical film Mama Mia! (2008), or joyfully tapped your feet to the delightful opening sequence "Another Day of Sun" from Damien Chazelle’s La La Land (2016) as the ensemble sang and danced to the catchy song on an LA highway, then you’ll definitely enjoy this Korean movie directed by Choi Kook-hee.
Marketed as Korea’s first jukebox musical film, the story is actually a bittersweet one. We are introduced to Se-yeon (Yum Jung-ah), a housewife who has devoted her entire life to her family, serving everyone’s needs and completing one household chore after another. This is a character many of us may have seen in our mothers. Her husband is Jin-bong (Ryu Seung-ryong), a civil servant who may have lost his empathy after being sucked into the bureaucratic system. At home, he is a grumpy husband and father, a trait we may have seen in our own fathers.
Se-yeon finds out that she has lung cancer and only a few months left to live. She asks Jin-bong to help her locate her first high school crush to fulfil her dying wish. He unwillingly does so, and as the road trip across the country progresses, they relive some of their memorable life events together. And yes, that’s also when viewers will enjoy many song and dance sequences, choreographed against beautiful backdrops.
If you are familiar with popular Korean hit songs from the 1970s to the 2000s, then this 122 minute movie will be a treat. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t heard any of the tunes in the film, because it is just as pleasing listening to them for the first time. With the subtitles, you’ll fully appreciate how the songs are expressing the characters’ emotions and you may even find yourself humming along to the music.
While Yum and Ryu are veterans in showbiz, they reportedly do not have experience in a musical production and gamely took up the challenge to be the leads in Choi’s film. With lots of practice, you’ll applaud their efforts to be able to pull off the music sequences, especially the ones that require complicated dance steps – you can tell they aren’t as proficient as the backup dancers.
The movie garnered five nominations (Best Actor, Best Actress, Best New Actor, Best Music, Best Costume Design) at the upcoming Grand Bell Awards, the Korean equivalent of the American Academy Awards. We are hoping it’ll bring home some prizes as it faces fierce competition from other worthy films.
While enjoying the song and dance, you’ll also be moved by the poignant message of the movie. Emotions are running high as the husband and wife take their supposedly final journey together. There will be laughter and tears, as Jin-bong eventually organises a party for Se-yeon because she has been lamenting she hasn’t gotten any parties for her birthdays. And this is when you’ll celebrate life with the couple, while appreciating the seemingly uncreative title of the film.
(A thoroughly enjoyable jukebox musical movie that also tells a poignantly beautiful story about life)
Review by John Li