Byeong-wu is an ambitious man who has a plan for his life to make a large salary as that is what he feels is the ultimate way of measuring the respect that someone deserves. After retiring from baseball he has entered the world of insurance sales and has become a rising star and he is about to take a new position dealing with only the most elite and highest earners of society and while he seems to have reached the top of his professional game, he has lost his way morally. This lapse, along with a shortcut he took when the pressure was when he was still working on establishing himself, will return to haunt him when Byeong-wu casually and coldly tells a depressed client how he can make suicide look like an accident he finds that he is in a new form of trouble as the client’s survivors are launching a police investigation into what he might have told the man and the insurance regulators are investigating all the clients he signed-and hidden among their number are three people he signed nearly two years ago despite knowing they had a history of suicide and now that their two year window for their life insurance policy waiting period is about to close he suddenly worries that they will follow through on their previous attempts which will cost him his future. With his professional life -and perhaps freedom- on the line Byeong-wu is going to have to meet with these people and try to persuade them that life is worth living, but is it possible that such a cynical man can truly pull off such a task or are his current life plans doomed? Or maybe is it possible that by trying to save others-even if for such reasons of avarice- may in fact provide a method to saving himself from his own shallow life?
The subject of suicide is one that is incredibly sensitive, perhaps even more so in South Korea as the suicide rate statistics there are even higher than the rate of Japan which has gained a lot of attention for with its staggering numbers. With such a sensitive topic, making a film that uses the matter as a central point that the plot revolves around may seem like as risky an endeavor as trying to juggle chainsaws-a whole lot of potential for complete disaster with not a lot of potential for a big reward. Trying to use comedy with it adds a whole additional level of challenge to an already difficult task as while comedy can help make even the most difficult of subjects more palatable, it can be just as tricky to pull off as dealing with tough matters on its own and it introduces a type of tightrope that the story will have to walk depending on just how respectful the feature wishes to be about the issues at hand.
All of this is a long way of trying to explain how it is that the film manages to achieve a level of success in its endeavors despite the fact that most of what really stands out about its presentation are the areas that serve to weigh it down and which are come across as much more noticeable and overt than the parts that the film does well. Chief among these problems is that the film doesn’t really do a great job of setting its protagonist Byeong-wu up as a sympathetic or-even really likable- character and so it can be difficult to connect with him early on which both hurts the arc of his transformation but also his interactions with the rest of the cast as the actor is left to rely on charisma and force of will alone to try to keep the audience engaged and some of the frenetic actions his character exhibits lend more of an inconsistency to the events and distract more than endear him in his efforts. The other problem that the film has is that it suffers from a rather large bloating problem in terms of trying to get time for all its characters to display their situations which creates a rather large obstacle in and of itself to getting in touch with the cast as the main character bounces from situation to situation just as some connections seem to be made with the audience with the person he is just leaving to go to the next. This is a shame as some of the characters actually undergo some decent development which then creates the impression that the film’s production side wasn’t sure that any one of the character’s stories were enough to carry the film alone and they went more for a throwing a fair number of ideas at the screen in order to hope that one of the varied situations would resonate and create a bond that they weren’t sure the writing could if focused on just one of the characters Byeong-wu has to interact with.
Most of this probably sounds a bit cynical and establishes a film that one might want to miss but the film really hits its high mark in its approach to the subject matter when it comes to the presentation of the individuals themselves. It would have been easier- probably by a large degree- for the writers to go for the low hanging fruit and use the various people who had attempted suicide in the past as comedic elements themselves and have whatever situation they are living through serve as the punch line. Instead the writers chose the much more difficult path of trying to approach the characters like they are real people and treat their issues with respect and while some parts can be humorous they aren’t the sole crux of what is the set up for the scenes. It is really in this respect that the film earns its positive will as it helps to both create the real drama as well as drag the protagonist into a situation where he has a chance to change himself while hiding just how little the audience may have connected with him on the way as well as earning some forgiveness for the somewhat predictable nature of the closing scenes. The film is one that is constantly walking a fine edge though and in watching one might easily pick up on just how easily the film could have gone in a more dramatic place as many of the scenes use a very light and upbeat score over scenes that could easily have been much darker with a different- or even no-music. Perhaps this situation best illustrates the film’s seeming disconnect from itself at times as it never seems to be entirely sure how to play itself over the entire run and so it winds up being a film with some magical moments that get stuck in a script that tries to do too much and play too close to the vest with its lead and establishing him which creates a bit of a morass that the feature never quite manages to free itself from and become as special as some moments seem to say it held the promise of.