If I were some chairperson to some prestigious award-giving body Jury, I swear I would’ve rallied for this film to bag three awards: 1) Best actor in a comedy/drama for Cha Tae-Hyun, a staple star of the Korean Box Office. Everyone knows him from the My Sassy Girl movie, of course, and I liked that movie, too. Come to think of it he’s never had a film I hated; I don’t know—he’s got an eye for good film projects, it seems. And you know what’s amazing? Cha Tae-Hyun keeps on getting better and better with each role through the years. I swooned a bit at My Sassy Girl, got emotionally won-over in Sad Movie, and man, Hello Ghost just sealed it for me and just made him my personal favourite actor, bar none.
Award number 2: The only film which had me bawling madly. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that ten minutes later after the film ended, I’m still crying my heart and eyes out. And all floodgates of tears still broke loose when I watched it the second, third and fourth time. Because it’s awesome like that. Come see the film and if you’re not moved, sue me. And finally—dare I say it? BEST. ENDING.EVER.
Like I said, Cha Tae Hyun won’t be such a superstar if he’s not well-loved for the characters he bring to life onscreen. For starters, he’s not the stereotypical eye-candy/ muscled hero we’ve been used to—he’s totally average, if not the underdog type, which helps him effectively in the likeability department; He’s such a natural in making his mundane roles relatable and intimate.
In this, Cha Tae-Hyun plays a suicidal young man named Kang Sang Man, who has lost all purpose for living—with no family, no friends, no loved one. He lives all by himself in a little apartment, and at the onset of the film we already get the main premise of the story: this man’s a hopeless loser who just wanted his way out of his misery once and for all. And wow, he might’ve failed basically in everything in his life, heartbreakingly including: failing at every single suicide attempt he makes.
I know, I know. The movie’s theme is of course, predictably a cliché-cloaked feel-good affirmation of celebrating life, but the film explored deeper than what meets the eye; the story unfolds in layers, and if you’ve been reading my previous critiques, you’ll know how much of a sucker I am for the beauty of layers—and this movie executes it in a fluid, almost invisible manner that I’m so compelled to congratulate the director for a job well done. Dear Kim Young-Tak: Hi, I’m officially jealous of you! Kthanksbye. Sincerely, me.
Anyway what are these layers I’m talking about, you say? Cha Tae Hyun’s character randomly encounters four ghost when he was sent to the hospital from another failed suicide attempt; four ghosts popping out from nowhere, each with very distinct personalities and unfinished business, will inhabit his body until they come to peace with things they needed to amend/get/do before being sent off to the other side. Pretty neat story structure, yes. All Cha Tae Hyun has to do is figure out how to grant all of their final wishes to get rid of them one by one.
How much do I love that the supernatural element of the film are created to torment the protagonist’s life, contrary to say, what our pop culture fairy tales normally does? This is Aladdin, granting the Genie’s wishes. This is Cinderella, being constantly enslaved in tyranny by the Fairy Godmother’s vanities. I’m sold.
We have a chain-smoking taxi driver, an endlessly-weeping woman who has a penchant for hiding inside closets, a perverted old man who’s got a fetish for women in tight skirts, and a rude, bouncey little kid with an unbelievable appetite for food. Picture the chaos? Imagine Cha Tae Hyun being possessed by these ghosts in turns and you already have a fraction of idea of the film’s hilarity.
Cha Tae Hyun is so good becoming their alter-ego that it’s not only comical and laugh-out-loud funny, it’s utterly unbelievable and believable all at the same time. There’s one particular scene where he’s talking with one of the ghosts at a police station and everyone’s just gawking at him, because of course, in their eyes, he’s talking back and forth to himself. Comedy for the win.
Ever heard of the saying, ‘the harder you laugh, the harder you’ll cry’? No film can be a better testament to that. The story seamlessly gets you wholly invested that it’ll definitely be one rollercoaster ride of emotions. When my girlfriend Ira gave me a copy of this, I prepared myself for a light and fluffy comedy. My mind is not at all expecting a human drama with a universe of life philosophy and so much heart. I wasn’t ready. Hence, the tears. And I’m not embarrassed. Everyone I nagged to go watch this movie, cried without fail. I challenge you.