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[Herald Review] ‘Sunset in My Hometown,’ a well-acted feel-good flick

Lee Joon-ik caps off “youth trilogy” with drama packing plenty of heart and laughter

This is why people love Director Lee Joon-ik. Even when telling stories of a doomed tyrant and a pack of clowns, a poet who met his death through human experiment, a has-been pop star down on his luck and fortune, he always brings that warm, fuzzy feeling and hopes about humanity in his pieces.

The director‘s latest movie “Sunset in My Hometown” tells the story of a wanna-be rapper with no talent and daddy issues coming back to his hometown where his not-so-proud childhood comes back to bite him on the behind.

Hak-su, played by Park Jung-min, fails to make the cut for the rap competition program “Show Me the Money” for the sixth straight year. He receives a phone call from his hometown of Byeonsan, North Jeolla Province that his deadbeat father -- who he resents for mistreating him and his now-dead mother -- is dying. 

“Sunset in My Hometown” (Megabox)
“Sunset in My Hometown” (Megabox)

Back home, he is confronted by high school classmate Seon-mi -- Kim Go-eun and others from his past like Mi-kyeong -- with whom he had a crush on -- and Yongdae -- who Hak-su used to bully as a kid but now is a gangster.

The plot is predictable as any family-friendly flick, but the characters are what makes this film stand out. Park, a chameleon who is able to make you cry and laugh at the same time, does an ingenious job of depicting a man that is sometimes goofy, pathetic, but the audience feels sympathetic toward.

Kim Go-eun put on eight extra kilograms to her slim figure for a more “friendly” vibe, according to the actress, and her portrayal of the slightly awkward and frank character with a moral compass gave Hak-su’s character a rock to lean on.

The couple‘s chemistry is so good that just looking at them puts a smile on my face, not to mention the dialogue -- not trying too hard to be funny -- is charmingly hilarious.

Hak-su’s rapping is cringingly bad, but that adds to the charm of the character. None of them are perfect, they have all have flaws and issues, just like every single one of the youngsters watching the film. The film looks at them warmly and says it‘s ok to be like that.

Lee’s talent is shown off in just how natural the characters and the dialogue feel, yet the characters are so charming that you cannot help but be invested in what they are going through. No dramatic turn of events, no life-changing experience. Just a story about growing pains of young men and women.

“Sunset in My Hometown” opens in local theaters on July 4. 

By Yoon Min-sik