Seen in Jeonju

The Happy Life (2007)

16th October 2009

happy lifeOriginally posted January 19, 2007– A recent article in the Korean Herald mentioned how an increasing number of films are being made to target the older members of the audience who are making up an ever-growing percentage of the box office figures.  By ‘older members’ they were refering to viewers over thirty who have more stable jobs and a disposable income. The article mentioned several films that were propelled to success because of this crowd including May 18 and Radio Star.  The Happy Life was not mentioned, but clearly should have been as it was certainly created for the late thirties/early forties demographics who may long for the days when they were still young and free to do whatever they dreamed of rather than face the burdens of responsibility, failed careers that they do not really like anyway and marriages that have dissolved into a dull routine.

 The above description aptly fits the life of Ki-young, the main character in the film. He had lost his job sometime before the film begins and does not seem to have enough ambition to search for another at his age.  His short-tempered wife is a teacher and it is her salary that allows their family to continue. She appears to have stopped nagging him about getting a job though and goes through her daily routine that barely includes her husband. 

Ki-young learns of the death of a college friend who was also the leader of a band called ‘Active Volcano’ that both were members of.  After the funeral, the surviving members remember their days in college and Ki-young suggests that they start up their band again. After all, it was a dream that they all passionately shared before life got in their way and they all seem to be weary and tired of struggling through the motions of living lives they were never meant to. By denying themselves their dreams, they are slowly fading away to nothingness.

That is all well and good for Ki-young, but not really practical for the other former musicians.  Drummer Hyeok-soo is supporting a wife and two children who are studying in Canada to give them an academic advantage. He sells used cars for a living and sends his entire earnings to his spouse which has reduced him to living in a single room apartment and eating ramen every night.  The bass guitarist Seong-wook has recently been laid off from work and has taken to working several different part time jobs until his company is able to hire him back.  His wife, however, does not seem to realizes the seriousness of their situation and constantly spends money on the best tutors for their son, the best afterschool academies and any other method she can buy to make sure that their young son will be at the top of his class.

What follows is the story of their struggles to live life the way that they want to, regardless of the cost.  Showcased throughout this tale are several songs written for the story that are quite catchy.  One of them was near to wearing out its welcome by the fifth time I heard it, but fortunately it is good enough so I didn’t really mind it.

This movie is listed as a comedy, but as you can see, there is nothing at all comedic about the plot.  ‘Feel good’ film yes, comedy no.  Definitely worth your time to see

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