Soft acoustic pop and passing cars lead into lingering glances across a sleeping city. Adoring fan Sang-i gazes longingly at street singer Kang In-su as he strums his way through a soppy ballad, the almost-title track “Wish For You”. Initial seeds of romance are planted within the first 2 minutes; yet, we are forced to wait with baited breath until the last 2 minutes to see whether the buds will blossom. This, of course, begs the question: how much do we really gain along the way?
Top Tip: Use headphones to appreciate the surround sound of soft road noise, especially at the beginning.
Wish You: Your Melody From My Heart (2021, Seong Do Joon) is a Korean gay romantic comedy. Its rather bizarre pacing can be explained (though not excused) by the fact that it was adapted from a mini series. Perhaps adapted is a generous term: it is, as far as I can tell, a web series with an inexplicably high budget that conveniently happens to be an hour and forty minutes long ー all smooshed together to make a film. Still, pacing isn’t everything, and there is plenty to be praised if you can appreciate a cute rom-com.
The film focuses around Sang-i and his love obsession with unsigned singer Kang In-su. It becomes apparent that Sang-i works as an intern for a music production company. A colleague (an ally) of his, Yu-jin, convinces their boss that the company should work with In-su. Working on the project as Yu-jin’s assistant, and with her staunch encouragement, Sang-i gets to know In-su better and a friendship eventually blossoms. If you can’t guess what we’re leading to next, maybe take a look at the name of this blog.
Biggest Gay Mood: not being able to looking your crush straight (lol) in the eye
Timid and soft-spoken, Sang-i struggles to rise to his high-paced and demanding working environment. The industry of K-pop production, with its extremely strict contracts and high-pressure turnaround of the “idols” (performers), contrasts against Sang-i’s quiet personality ー until you hear him play the keyboard, it’s unclear why he chose to work there in the first place. Of course, he may just be there to persuade the production company to hire beautiful male singers so he can fall in love with them, which is valid in an of itself.
Britney Line Time: “Every time you look at me / My heart is jumping, it’s easy to see”
Lead actor Lee Sang explores Sang-i’s earnestness beautifully. Sang-i is a boy of few words, which could make expression difficult; instead, the actor plays up physicality and pausing to give us insight into his character’s emotional journey. The gay yearning is particularly effective: I’ve never been so surprised and excited to see someone shirtless and I think it’s Sang-i’s reaction that sold that.
Sang’s eyes are particularly expressive. His sense of wonder at the boy he loves, as well as the wondering about whether it could be reciprocated, is excruciatingly recognisable.
More than occasionally, the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ (and ‘they-almost-certainly-will,-right?’) love story slides into cheesiness. As cute as the two boys are, lingering romantic gazes across a lake with a soundtrack of corny love songs? It’s a little strong.
At one point, during a fight, they play one song they usually play together, this time apart, in a soppy montage. Some storylines, too, are predictable: Sang-i plays In-su’s song on the piano and he overhears, giving a dramatic reaction to Sang-i’s musical artistry, somehow previously unknown to him.
The two main actors, Lee Sang and Kang In Soo (confusingly both similar but not identical to their character names), carry the story well; some of the supporting cast, however, don’t get away with it so easily. As In-su’s friend and manager Min Seong, Baek Seo Bin overacts disparate lines, distracting the eye from the main romance. Plus, I can’t speak for the original Korean, but the language of the subtitled dialogue doesn’t help.
At the end of the day, though, this level of corny rom-com cliche is what you’ve signed up for. The original title (though not currently displayed on Netflix) “Wish You: Your Melody From My Heart” tells you everything you need to know. If you surrender to the cuteness, it becomes a lot less grating.
The plot itself is as old as the “friends to maybe more” queer teen movie trope ー which, admittedly, is nowhere near as old as most straight movie tropes. Still, the bones are recognisable: other examples from the continent could be Taiwan’s Your Name Engraved Herein (Patrick Kuang-Hui Liu, 2020) and Thailand’s Yes or No (Sarasawadee Wongsompetch, 2010) ー both of which I’ve reviewed, of course. This prescribed narrative extends to other mediums as well: for example, Alice Osman’s graphic novel series Heartstopper (soon to be adapted to a Netflix series!) explores a similar progression.
Wish You encounters problems, however, when meshing this plot with a confusing format. As I mentioned earlier, the film is not actually a film; a compilation of an eight-episode mini-series a film does not make. Thus, the narrative is decidedly episodic: we experience too many cliff-hangers, and excessive cuts to the action at dramatic moments. The story feels stilted, and, having been unsatisfied by queer-baiting narratives before, the stretched-out anticipation put me uncomfortably on edge. In the end, I felt like the climax came at the wrong moment (hey, we’ve all been there) and we weren’t granted enough time for a fully explored resolution.
The rushed ending of Wish You tends towards a Season 2, (surely, soon after, turned into a film sequel). I would certainly watch it, but I would probably be a bit angry at having to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for building up the drama, but a film should stand on its own merits.
Yes, it is cute, and I’m sure that, if I were a Korean teenager, I would be enamoured with the idea of falling in gay love with a K-pop idol. At the end of the day, the clunkiness of the pacing doesn’t totally detract from the undeniable cuteness of the story; behind formatting issues, a whisper of charm remains.