2011/04/30 | 4149 views | | Permalink
Maybe it was my mental state at the time but Kim Yeong-tak's "Hello Ghost" really caught me off guard. I was expecting a relatively light comedy but what I got was an emotional drama sprinkled with chuckles and cheese.
I think Chris Columbus (director of "Home Alone", "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets", and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) said it best when he praised the film's ability to mix drama, comedy and complex emotional themes. It really is a well-balanced entanglement of emotions that causes you to constantly reset your emotional reactions at any given time. Mr Columbus has decided to remake the film for American audiences due the story's strong cross-cultural appeal and universality.
Kang Sang-man (played by Cha Tae-hyeon from "My Sassy Girl") is a deeply depressed and troubled young man trying to end his life. The film's opening scene is Kang shoving a ridiculous amount of medication down his gullet in a motel. This attempt at suicide fails and, despite additional attempts, he just can't seem to end it all. After another go at it Jang finds himself in a hospital where the doctor informs him that he did, in fact, stop breathing for a short time. Having knocked at death's door, Jang is now haunted by four ghosts who have no intention of letting him be.
Cha Tae-hyeon manages to find a suitable balance in his character that avoids an overly empathic audience. We understand as much as we need to and the key trauma is Jang's life is singled out as the source of his melancholy. Kang Sang-man's character is very simple and fat free, a fact that you will either appreciate or distance yourself from. It will be interesting to see if Chris Columbus' western version attempts to paint a broader picture here.
After consulting a shaman, Kang comes to realise that he will be unable to leave this world until his ghostly entourage leave him by choice. With that in mind he offers to each of them the chance to gain some form of closure by helping them with a wish they might have. One by one the ghost's wishes are dealt with and in the process Jang finds not only meaning in life but personal closure about his past.
At its core "Hello Ghost" is a film about enjoying the time we have with the people we love, a truly universal message that transcends culture. There are laughs to be had, a few frustratingly cheesy moments, and maybe even a tear or two as the story slowly guides you from the shallows into the deep end. Don't be fooled by the film's age restriction of 12, as it's uncomplicated plot will lead you to feel more than you were expecting.
-Christopher J. Wheeler
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Available on DVD from YesAsia
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Hello Ghost""
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