Min-jae (played by Yoon Kye-sang), Chang-seob (played by On Joo-wan), and Dong-wan (played by Lee Joon-gi) are three high school students who struggle with normal high school problems, like the desire not to get beat up every day, get into a good school, and have fun in general. As movie protagonists go they're actually relatively nebbish. Min-jae in particular is a giant weenie, yet he is also the main character, always struggling to find the courage to talk to local cool girl Soo-jin (played by Kim Min-jung).
"Flying Boys" is initially difficult to get a handle on. This is a movie that starts out with lesbians in an introductory scene but this quickly just ends up being a convolution designed to get the main characters into a ballet class. That probably sounds like the quirkiest story ever, but the ballet is not as important a story element as it initially appears. While there is a big climactic ballet performance at the end, it's not for the sake of competition. It's a metaphor for how the various characters can now work as an effective team.
Let's look at the three amigos themselves, Min-jae, Chang-seob, and Dong-wan. Where Dong-wan tries to get everyone to have a good time, Min-jae demurs and Chang-seob pouts. As a group these three don't really gel together. They don't act like friends, but are all too passive-aggressive to try to actually end the friendship and do something else. Then they get roped into doing ballet and for the first time, they're actually seriously listening to each other.
Consider another opening scene, where they decide it's not their business if someone else has the bad luck of being hassled. Well, having learned about the power of teamwork, later on in the movie Min-jae, Chang-seob, and Dong-wan make it their business to help out other people and be genuinely cool people around the community. The ballet is important only to the extent that it provides valuable structure that had previously been lacking in their lives.
"Flying Boys" is principally about growing up, not through big immediate moments, but gradual self-improvement. Soo-jin's own character arc deals with this surprisingly harshly. While Min-jae's crush on Soo-jin is over her perceived assertiveness, ultimately, Soo-jin can't solve problems by being assertive alone. There has to be substance behind the adolescent rage, which is what ultimately allows the various main characters to confront their demons when it comes to adulthood.
To be entirely honest I wasn't all that enthralled with "Flying Boys" when I first watched it. The deviation from formula takes a moment to get used to, and a lot of the humor is understated. Yet that's where a lot of the deeper charm lies- in the very awkwardness of its characters, and their inability to properly act within a cinematic format. Take the big centerpoint scene featuring "Save the Green Planet". Pretty weird and out of nowhere. Opportunity, though, is wherever you find it. That's a very relatable credo by which to live your life, which works to make "Flying Boys" very relatable.
Review by William Schwartz
Available on DVD from YESASIA
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Flying Boys" + DVD Giveaway"
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