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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Can You Hear Me?"


Early on in "Can You Hear Me?" the question is posed to communications expert Kim Chang-ok as to why, exactly, this documentary is being made. He doesn't have a particularly convincing answer, although one is quickly forthcoming. See, even though Kim Chang-ok is a communications expert, he actually does not communicate that well with his own father. This is true both figuratively, in that his father is a lousy communicator, but also literally, in that he appears to be going deaf.

Now, you might be wondering, who is Kim Chang-ok and why should I care about the hearing disability of his father? And well, that was the mystery regarding the very existence of "Can You Hear Me?" that I could only solve through inference. "Can You Hear Me?" is quite transparently a documentary for people who already know who Kim Chang-ok is and are curious about his family background.

What possible demand there could be for such a documentary, I still have trouble really fathoming. Kim Chang-ok has a YouTube channel that does moderately well. Most of his videos have about five digits in terms of views, with some managing to go as high as seven digits. In these videos, Kim Chang-ok fields queries in a lecture style format, encouraging people to solve their problems with friends and family by doing a better job of communicating with them.

This is all kind of interesting but aside from simply stating that Kim Chang-ok is well known, well liked, well respected, and easily fills venues on the lecture circuit, "Can You Hear Me?" doesn't really offer much more than that in terms of genuinely interesting information. The documentary as a whole just feels like a series of extended anecdotes about the personal lives of people we don't know all that well. This was particularly obvious when Kim Chang-ok runs into some celebrity he helped move to Jeju Island.

I can't actually remember which celebrity, I think he was a low-level musician of some sort. And all of this takes place because Kim Chang-ok's family lives on Jeju Island. By which I mean his mother and father. Near the end of the movie we find out that apparently Kim Chang-ok has older siblings, though it wasn't totally clear to me whether they lived on Jeju Island either. I do remember that Kim Chang-ok's father was presented as a surprisingly pathetic figure, who grumpily mentions working hard to send Kim Chang-ok to college.

Apparently Kim Chang-ok worked part-time jobs to pay for college according to his friends. Although maybe Kim Chang-ok's father was speaking figuratively more than literally? It's hard to tell because so much of the information in "Can You Hear Me?" is presented in a disjointed out of context way. Consequently "Can You Hear Me?" is surprisingly difficult to follow, weirdly undone by how the story ends up becoming about Kim Chang-ok's parents after having barely even explained anything about Kim Chang-ok himself.


"Can You Hear Me?" is directed by Kim Bong-han, Shin Seung-hwan. Release date in Korea: 2020/06/10.


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