Soo-hyeon (played by Kim Yun-seok) is a surgeon who at first glance has no obvious regrets in life. After all, this is a man who, dying as he is of lung cancer, makes a point of doing charity work in Cambodia. It is from there that memories start activating, and we get a glimpse of the past where the young doctor Soo-hyeon (played by Byun Yo-han) met and loved dolphin trainer Yeon-ah (played by Chae Seo-jin).
The fundamental nostalgia construction of "Will You Be There" is pretty strong. Soo-hyeon's love life is interesting mainly because he's the kind of guy who just doesn't have a love life on account of his nebbish personality. It comes off as a bit of a surprise that the present day Soo-hyeon has a daughter named Soo-ah (played by Park Hye-soo), since positive qualities notwithstanding, it's hard to imagine any woman aside from Yeon-ah having the patience necessary to put up with him.
If "Will You Be There" had simply been a sappy love story of lost love it would have been fairly tolerable. Where writer/director Hong Ji-young goes wrong is by introducing science fiction elements. These too, aren't necessarily a bad idea, but they're executed in a completely inconsistent manner. While Soo-hyeon's magic pills should logically have immediate effects, as the story continues, drama is made over Soo-hyeon's inability to properly identify the specific ways his life has changed.
My agitation over the magic pills is mainly over how the focus on them takes preeminence over the focus on Soo-hyeon and Yeon-ah's love story. While we get these great looks over their normal dating life together, the magic pill story device prevents us from seeing other worthwhile moments in their lives. How did they meet? How did they split up? The omission of the latter scene is especially frustrating, since a huge point is made of the circumstances which led to the break-up, yet we never get to see them justify it in person.
Their relationships with other characters are also poorly defined. Soo-hyeon's best friend Tae-ho (played by Kim Sang-ho) obviously knows who Yeon-ah is and is at one point very offended by some unclear action that Soo-hyeon committed against her, yet the young Tae-ho and the young Yeon-ah never meet. Tae-ho is also the character who solves the final conflict- yet he receives no proper ending. Apparently he's just supposed to be satisfied with having a bit role in the overall story.
This is a bit of a funny commentary, though, on how Soo-hyeon himself is apparently not smart enough to realize that he could have used the magic pills to solve an entirely preventable problem. I think the idea was that Soo-hyeon is too selfless a person to think about doing something like that. Although really, in between that and his magic pill bungling in general, Soo-hyeon just comes off as kind of dumb. The whole movie suffers from that unfortunate subtext.
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] "Will You Be There""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
[Guest Film Review] "A Taxi Driver" screening at Fantasia International Film Festival
The Gwangju Uprising has been a recurring theme in S. Korean cinema, with "A Petal", "National Sec,...More
[Interview] Han Ye-ri with The Lady Miz Diva at NYAFF17
Visiting the New York Asian Film Festival in celebration of her film, "A Quiet Dream", actress Han,...More
Subscribe to HanCinema Pure to remove ads from the website (not for episode and movie videos) for US$0.99 monthly or US$7.99 yearly (you can cancel anytime). The first step is to be a member, please click here : Sign up, then a subscribe button will show up.