I’m sorry if I wasn’t able to post all my reviews of my favorite movies from the 2011 Korean Film Festival. But still, I can share with you my thoughts on them. My third pick is actually “A Happy Life”, which is such a heartwarming comedy in a similar mold as “Scandal Maker”.
“A Happy Life” is the story of the college rock band “Active Volcano”. The story begins with the death of the band’s former lead vocalist Sang-Woo. He has left behind his son Hyun-Joon (played by Jang Geun-Seuk) who has issues with his father who died while working as a bar singer. In his grief, he tries to burn his father’s beloved guitar. But the band’s former lead guitarist Gi-Young (played by Jeong Jin-Young) stops him from doing so. Gi-Young is a jobless father who relies on his wife to take care of everything so when he remembers how much Sang-Woo loved music, he is impassioned to revive the “Active Volcano” band.
Initially the other band members relent. After all, the band’s former bassist Seong-Wook (played by Kim Yeon-Seok) barely has the time since he needs to work two jobs just to maintain the high living standards that his wife and two children demand. The band’s former drummer Hyeok-Soo (played by Kim Sang-Ho) is also hard put being a used car salesman to provide for his family who have all migrated to Canada. They try to deny the call of music but when they realize how pathetic their life has been, they decide to revive the band again.
But however talented they are, these former college rock band members just seem a bit too old. And with the gaping hole left by Sang-Woo, things just seem incomplete. That is, until they discover that Hyun-Joon (yes, I love his name) is actually a good musician just like his father. Hyun-Joon eventually doesn’t just front the bad, he also helps them become more contemporary – with new wardrobe, hair styles, and even tattoos to make them over. With this, they revive “Volcano” – igniting Hongdae with their unique blend of classic rock and modern rock.
I actually love the premise of this story: a couple of old guys who discovers the meaning of true happiness by reviving the college rock band. But what makes it even more compelling is the story behind each of the four main characters. I love how all four of them have their issues regarding happiness. In a way, they have all given up on their dreams because they had to “grow up” and live “real” lives.
But finding happiness isn’t as simple as just staying alive day by day. The band’s name “Active Volcano” and their first single “Explosion” is actually a good metaphor since these actually hint at how happiness is meant to be like an explosion, a fire that consumes your life at its core. In a way, it also implies how any volcano, any life can be reawakened.
The music is also one of the main highlights of this movie. It’s amazing how the soundtrack totally captures the indie spirit of Rock & Roll. Coupled with the excellent cinematography, one is totally transported to Hongdae and to the lives of each of the characters. I also love how symbolic the songs are – from the first “Explosion” to the finale “A Happy Life”.
Perhaps my only complaint about the movie is that the development of each character’s story wasn’t as balanced. Gi-Young had a little bit more screen time that the others even if their stories were just as interesting.In fact, Hyun-Joon was somewhat relegated to a passing character compared to Gi-Young.
Overall, I absolutely recommend this movie to everyone. Let me admit now that I cried several times during the movie because through it, I really felt the sadness of having to live a life without ever finding true happiness. I loved the characters and felt like each of them became a friend during the course of the movie.
This is what “I Am Legend” the Korean drama could have been, if it had been done right.
Thanks to VietnamEels2 for the video.