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South Korea 2023

Comedy, Drama

Lee Byeong-heon

Park Seo-joon
Lee Ji-eun
Kim Jong-soo
Ko Chang-seok
Jung Seung-gil
Lee Hyun-woo
Yang Hyun-min

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Dream - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Yoon Hong-dae (Park Seo-joon) is a professional soccer player and comes across a journalist who keeps asking questions about his mother. She is currently on the run after cheating some people out of their money. After Yoon has laid hands on the journalist, he now has to do everything he can to spruce up his image again. And his agent immediately finds a suitable opportunity. A Korean team is supposed to be sent to the World Cup for the homeless and Yoon is chosen to train them. Lee So-min (Lee Ji-eun) accompanies the whole thing with her camera and is supposed to make a documentary out of it. She also contributes significantly to choosing the players, because the sadder their life stories are, the better they fit into her documentary. For example, there is the homeless father Jeon (Ko Chang-seok), whose young daughter will soon emigrate to Australia along with his ex-wife and her new husband, or Son (Jung Seung-gil), who takes care of a mentally handicapped woman with whom he has fallen in love. The problem for Yoon is that none of the men really know anything about soccer. Strictly speaking, the professional soccer player doesn't really care, because he only has to stick to Soo-min's script anyway and nobody expects the team to do anything extraordinary. But even Yoon slowly starts to warm up and finally takes his job more seriously.

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Review: You should never underestimate the convenience you can fall victim to because of streaming services like Netflix. Looking for a new movie from the collection for the evening? Why do that when Netflix can simply suggest you a seemingly acceptable comedy? However, the Korean heyday for sports movies was actually around the year 2010 already. And back then it was also about more "exotic" sports such as ski jumping in "Take Off" or the table tennis women from North and South Korea in "As One". So why make a movie about soccer? Well, just like the former two, "Dream" is based on true events, and a soccer team consisting of homeless people should at least offer room for a little drama. Or humor. Because this sports movie is actually supposed to mainly be a comedy, but when it focuses on the life stories of the individuals, of course, you can expect some room for tragedy.

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To put it in a nutshell: "Dream" can hardly contribute anything new to the subgenre - which in itself wouldn't be a disaster, but the movie never seems to know in which direction it wants to go. The different, small storylines run loosely through the movie and at a certain point not even Yoon as the anker is able to carry the movie anymore. At first, everything seems quite structured. The humor also works quite well, for example, when Yoon's move to poke a lawyer in the eyes in a fit of rage turns into a meme. And with the documentary filmmaker, an interesting personality joins the movie, and promises to create some tension in a non-romantic way with Yoon. Over time, however, we delve more and more into the lives of the homeless, which is not done that thoughtfully, though. Instead, we get a potpourri of different biographies, which we don't really know what to do with.

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One example is the young homeless man whose girlfriend was swept away by the sea and for whom he has been looking with flyers ever since. Eventually, he thinks he recognizes her as a member of the Japanese team in Hungary, but absolutely nothing comes of it. One of the most flatly written characters suddenly comes out as gay and asks why this has to be such a big problem in this world. While viewers from most Western countries will only shrug their shoulders and ask themselves, "Who cares these days?", it is still a taboo in Korea - but immediately afterwards the topic is simply dropped again. Instead, we get some funny supporting characters like the self-proclaimed former gangster or an unnecessarily long story about a father, played by Ko Chang-seok ("The Con Artists"), whose daughter is soon about to emigrate. There is nothing really original here.

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Surprisingly, as the movie continues, Park Seo-joon ("The Divine Fury") seems to get less and less colorful. Lee Ji-eun ("Broker") as the documentary filmmaker, on the other hand, probably has the most potential, simply because her intentional artificial laughter and her likable quirky manner turns her into a little highlight, but sadly the script doesn't use her adequately either. So, the characters only manage to speak to us on a superficial level, and at the latest when everything starts revolving around the tournament in the last 45 minutes, the characters completely fade into the background and instead the team gets into the spotlight. Suddenly, we are supposed to be interested in the soccer game, even though none of the homeless people can actually play it that well, and right from the beginning, it was made clear that it was never supposed to be about winning. But somehow it is turned into a story about the underdog, because in reality the bad Korean team became the crowd's favorite. Just because the media hyped it up to be that at the time doesn't mean that it provides enough material for an entire movie, though.

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At the latest when slow motion, the enthusiastic commentator and the cheering of the audience start to take over, you feel like you must have missed something. Where does this sudden enthusiasm come from? It's not as infectious as director Lee Byeong-heon ("Extreme Job") intended it to be. Yoon's personal story doesn't work as a framework either, and so "Dream" is constantly torn apart by its subplots. 127 minutes is also clearly too long, and in several places the flick even feels artificially blown up. This could also be due to the fact that nothing about the story is seriously original. "Dream" is not really bad, because as a feel-good flick it is able to do its job most of the time, but everything is extremely average here, and once again, the drama towards the end is focused on so much that the humor seems to completely disappear. In the end, you will therefore probably feel quite empty after watching "Dream" and quickly forget about it.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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