Move to Heaven

‘Move to Heaven’ Is Essential Summer Viewing

Grief. For all its negative connotations, its unwanted nature and the fact that it’s something that goes hand-in-hand with one of the more emotionally painful things a person of any age can experience, it’s an integral part of life. Almost everyone will experience it in some capacity, with certain instances happening in the most tragic and heart-wrenching of ways, but it’s a facet of our existence that will never cease to exist, forcing us to grow. Sometimes in ways, we never imagined we could.

Such themes are explored in Move to Heaven, Kim Sung Ho’s latest directorial work which takes its inspiration from the essay “Things Left Behind,” penned by the former trauma cleaner Kim Sae-byul. The show follows Han Geu-ru (Tang Jung-sang), a 20-year-old trauma cleaner with Aspergers who, along with his dad, forms part of the small business, aptly titled Move to Heaven. He’s a smart man, an astute post-adolescent who has a perfect memory and is able to decipher meanings quickly, but he struggles with change and finds it hard to adapt. Thus, when Geu-ru is thrust into the unknown following the passing of his father and the appearance of the scruffy, selfish Cho Sang-gu (Lee Je-hoon), his life becomes a lot less structured and far more uncertain.

The show tackles grief head-on, with Yoon Ji-ryeon’s narrative consistently looking at the ways in which loss can impact one’s life, forcing them to adjust to surroundings that suddenly appear unfamiliar, and situations that now feel scary and somewhat alien. Kim and Yoon never shy away from the heartbreaking reality of these circumstances, but in and around the themes of death, upset and tragedy, lies hope, comfort, and a constant presence of uplifting maturation, both in the series’ young and old characters.

Yet what makes Move to Heaven so special isn’t necessarily entirely in its poignant approach to its subject matter, nor the “I need to tell those close to me I love them” kind of emotion it draws out of its audience. It’s just as much in the small details; the understated embraces, the subtle changes in a person’s disposition, even just the passing glances. It all adds to the magnetism of the 10-part Netflix production and ensures that even the minutiae moments are packed with gravitas.

Of course, there are episodic stories too; bitesize looks at the various ways that people can touch others in their absence, and how belongings left behind can tell a story of who a person is, who matters to them, and what they wish to reveal to the world. They’re always affecting, some in unabating, visceral sentiment, and others in pseudo-crime investigation anger and frustration, but they invariably aid in shaping the protagonists, and how they come to develop as people, whilst also leaving the viewer pondering the influence people can have in our lives, and how we choose to remember them.

Move to Heaven

It’s beautifully acted as well. Lee Je-hoon, who can often veer towards crime and romance in his projects, is striking as Cho Sang-gu, a rugged, troubled man who finds it difficult to put his unenviable past behind him. He draws out both sympathy and eye-rolling frustration with aplomb and ensures that his depiction is constantly intriguing, even if his character’s story arc is one that is slightly predictable and run-of-the-mill for a release of this ilk. It’s another feather in the cap for Lee who this year has also shone in the revenge thriller Taxi Driver, and further proof of the upwards trajectory the actor finds himself on.

With that being said, it is perhaps the 17-year-old Tang Jun-sang who steals the show and grabs the headlines more than anyone else. Nuanced, sensitive and plaintive, Tang plays Han Geu-ru like an experienced hand, never undermining his character’s struggles or overemphasising the fact that Han has Aspergers to a degree in which it almost becomes offensive, but rather shedding light on the beauty of his life, and the strong impressions he leaves on those around him. The young actor had already gained traction for his performance in Crash Landing on You, but it’s his role in Move to Heaven that will rightly propel him towards stardom, and help the rookie towards carving out a diverse, fulfilling career.

So if you’re stuck for something to watch as the summer months approach, why not give Move to Heaven a try? Sure it might not be the type of feel-good pick-me-up that some tend to veer towards this time of year, nor the action-packed type of release which tends to pack the box office, but there is something authentically warm, comforting and reassuring about this gem of a series. Perhaps you’ll leave it evaluating just how important you can be to someone, or indeed just how important some people are to you. Whichever way you watch it, be sure to keep some tissues nearby, and maybe a loved one too.

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