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
“Will You Be There” is directed by Hong Ji-young and featuring Kim Yun-seok, Byun Yo-han, Chae Seo-jin and Kim Sang-ho.
Available on DVD from YESASIA
DVD (TW – English Subtitled)
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