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Original Title:
Ballet gyoseubso

South Korea 2004

Drama, Romance, Comedy

Byun Young-joo

Yun Gye-sang
Kim Min-jeong
On Ju-wan
Lee Jun-gi
Kim Dong-wook
Kang Do-han
Park Glena
Lee Seong-seob
Jo Han-hie
To Ji-Won

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Flying Boys

Story: Min-jae (Yun Gye-sang) looks like he is a good student, but he actually isn't. Together with his father, a pilot who seldomly is at home, he lives in an apartment. Min-jae has fallen in love with his neighbor's daughter Su-jin (Kim Min-jeong), nonetheless, he can't tell her about his real feelings, because if she would reject him he would have to move out.
Su-jin seems to be the complete opposite of Min-jae, because she succeeds in everything she does. And still she can't make up her mind which college to choose.
Min-jae has a rather low score in his final exam so his options which college to go to are rather limited. Should he repeat the exam after another year at school?
Nothing seems to work out and to make things even worse Min-jae, his friends and Su-jin, too, for different reasons are forced to attend a ballet course. There they get to know each other a little bit better and they have to realize that every one of them has his or her own share of problems to solve.

Review: "Flying Boys" really impressed me. Finally, no happy-life-comedy from Korea in which contrived elements of drama sneak in, but instead we get a carefully and well crafted study about becoming an adult and the problems that kids have to face at this border of a new chapter of life.

Byun Young-joo's film has a surprisingly great number of different characters. We are thrown into the movie rather abruptly and a have to face a whole bunch of people, whose life we are introduced to. Soon, the confusion about so much information fades away and we get to know who is friends with whom, why and how.
Although Min-jae without a doubt is the movie's main protagonist, we don't see life just from his perspective, but the narrational view in a very welcome way unobtrusively jumps between the different characters. We explore the life of these young people, learn about their problems and easily are engaged by their actions.
It's astonishingly that despite the numerous characters we are introduced to, not a single one looks shallow or one-dimensional. Every single actor really does his best to make this work out so good.

Translated from the original the movie would be titled "Ballet Studio". Luckily, "Flying Boys" is no dance movie, which tries to overcome the obstacles in life by letting its protagonists learn ballet. The ballet studio is rather just a place at which the different lives of the protagonists overlap and where their problems are getting a focal point. From there, our "heroes" make their first steps on their quest of becoming an adult. That's one of the great tricks of "Flying Boys": Ballet is as unimportant to the movie as it is essential!

To tab "Flying Boys" as a drama wouldn't be the whole truth. We dive into the world of these teenagers, who stand at a cross-road of life. Of course, there also have to be humorous scenes, too. Most of the jokes are implemented in a modest way, yet some of them are really nice. There is no slapstick and the jokes also aren't predictable. Moreover, there are a handful of small love stories, which prove to be surprisingly honest and aren't formulaic at all. These stories are just one part of the movie or rather one part of the protagonists' life.
With all the problems that come along with acquiring adulthood, the drama stands in the film's focus, naturally. The dramatic scenes are portrayed very believable and never trespass the border of what's bearable. Actually, real life is what's standing in the foreground. There are ups and downs, and the movie shows us exactly this truth of life.

The plot isn't bad, yet somehow takes a backseat, which is in no way something negative! Like life itself "Flying Boys" is always in motion, flowing like a stream of water. The problems of the different teenagers serve as the main threads which let things move forward and the ballet studio is the spot were all of these main threads converge.
The difficulties of life are discussed in a serious and likeable manner, but luckily there is also a certain lightheartedness, which makes it so easy for the viewer to relate to the characters. Even if not every single problem gets a solution, and this probably is also one of the messages the movie wants to convey, "Flying Boys" is a yes to life!

It's just a pity, that the film loses some of its drive towards the end. Somehow, the actors also don't seem to be as compelling as they were throughout the rest of the movie. Fortunately, that's only the case in the last few minutes so it's not a big deal. That is because it doesn't reduce the intensity of the overall picture.

Many of us will still remember clearly what the movie deals with, namely the cross-road to adulthood or still being a teenager. After finishing school you suddenly are confronted with the fact that you have to decide what to do in life. All of a sudden real life begins and we still aren't prepared for it! You are supposed to grow up overnight, but you just feel the same. There might be problems with your family, maybe also with a love relationship, there are doubts about the decisions you made and somehow nothing seems to work out the way it is supposed to. It's just these feelings and problems "Flying Boys" very skillfully approaches and it sheds some light on these difficulties from the view of different characters. You even might recognise yourself in some of the characters.
It's a good thing that back then we didn't already know that not only reaching adulthood is a cross-road, but being an adult will be a cross-road a whole lifetime...
But that's life: It's a trip with several ups and downs, but in the end the journey is worth all the trouble! And that's exactly the essence of what Byun Young-joo wants to say with his work.

"Flying Boys" mixes drama, comedy and love story very well, which makes it very accessable for the viewer. Nonetheless, there is a serious undertone and most of all it's the way the story is told and the several characters and their problems are presented, that make this film so worthwhile. Absolutely recommendable!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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