Two films in one!
I saw these films on the plane and had to write reviews because one was terrible and one was awesome.
I finally caught a showing of “Hello Ghost” – the film with Cha Tae Hyun, Jang Young Nam, Go Chang Seok, and Chun Bo Geun. I went in not really knowing what to expect – except for the fact that it was a comedy – and was surprised to find it heartwarming and succinct as well.
No spoilers, but the story goes where Cha’s character Sang Mun is simply trying to die. The problem is, he can’t. Every time he tries to off himself – whether by taking pills or drowning himself – someone or something prevents him from going through with it. Finally, after his nth attempt, he ends up in a hospital and starts seeing ghosts – a sleazy Grandpa, a slick Chain Smoker, an ever-crying Ahjumma, and a cheeky kid with a terrible sweet tooth.
In order to get rid of these ghosts, he needs to fulfill each of their wishes. Their wishes are really simple – returning a camera, watching a cartoon movie, going on a drive to the beach in an old cab, and cooking a meal for loved ones. In the meantime, he falls in love with the nurse at a hospital (Kang Hye Won), despite all his weird quirks (as each ghost possesses his body).
Cha Tae Hyun is beyond amazing. One thing I always enjoyed was his facial acrobatics, and he uses it to great effect here as he portrays each of the characters. It’s a little much when he crosses his eyes and gives smarmy smiles whenever he’s possessed by the sleazy Grandpa, but overall he’s great. Go Chang Seok is also a wonder; I admit this is my first movie with him ever since I saw “2 Days 1 Night” Supporting Actor’s special, and I can see what makes him so great, albeit forgettable. He’s that actor who becomes his characters, and so when you see him again, you might forget that he’s that actor. Although, after “2 Days 1 Night” I don’t think anyone can or ever will forget him. He’s also really as cuddly as a bear…
The story is very simple, and the film doesn’t use a lot of special effects (thankfully) for a film about ghosts. The simplicity keeps the film honest, and personally it makes the funny moments even funnier. There’s an amazing scene that explains how one of Sang Mun’s suicide attempts failed, and it hits just the right note.
Special shoutout to the little boy from Manny – Goo Seung Hyun – who plays a younger version of Cha Tae Hyun in the flashback scenes. That kid is freakin’ adorable!
This film was the one with Kim Yun Jin and Park Hae Il. Kim plays a mother of a sickly daughter in need of a heart transplant. Her daughter’s been so sick for so long, and she no longer has her husband, that Kim is willing to do anything to save her daughter’s life. She would even go find a donor agent to go find a matching heart for her daughter (which is also difficult because her daughter has a very specific blood type: AB-RH negative). Park Hae Il on the other hand is a lousy son and friend, trying to start up a business with loans but doing so poorly at paying them back. He’s always mooching off his mother, and she finally tells him that she’s leaving for the States with her new husband.
However, the mother lied – she’s actually sick herself, and when she falls into a coma, Kim finds out that the mother is a match to her daughter. She tries to bribe the family to give her the heart, but Park refuses to give her the heart because he thinks his mother will live again. A cat and mouse chase ensues.
For one thing, Kim and Park are excellent actors. They are emotional and deep enough to make you feel the pain and frustration, the turmoil and guilt that roil up inside them. But that’s probably the only good thing I have to say about this film.
While the conflict is understandable (who deserves to live more?) it’s quite biased towards Kim’s case (save her daughter) because you know that Park is only holding to false hope that his mother will wake up again. So I can’t really help but be frustrated when Park insists on keeping his mother alive.
The directing isn’t stellar either. This film is SO SLOW. I fast forwarded a few times because there are elements in the story that make it fast paced (car chases, kidnappings, etc) but the events unfold so slowly. I expected this film to be about an hour and a half, but I think this film ran nearly two hours.
I fast forwarded to the end, and it’s a bit of a bittersweet ending. A little too neat, but Park and Kim make it bittersweet.
Hello Ghost rating: 8/10
Heartbeat rating: 5/10