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Hello Ghost - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Dolikil Soo Eobsneun

South Korea 2010

Thriller, Drama

Park Soo-young

Lee Jeong-jin
Kim Tae-woo
Jeong In-gi
Kim Chang-sook
Lim Seong-eon
Bae Ho-geun

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Hello Ghost

Story: Sang-man (Cha Tae-hyun) grew up in an orphanage and ever since he can remember he has been alone. He becomes sick of life and wants to end it. Unfortunately, he does not even manage to do that. Repeatedly he is saved, until one day he wakes up in a hospital and meets strange figures, who apparently only he can perceive. For the psychologist this is a clear case, but Sang-man visits a fortuneteller, who finally suggests another solution for his problem. The people around him, a chain smoker (Ko Chang-seok), a cry-baby (Jang Young-nam), a lustful drinker (Lee Moon-su) and a little boy (Cheon Bo-geun) are in fact ghosts, who won't let him leave this world as long as they still have unfinished business keeping them here. Therefore, Sang-man enforcedly decides to answer their wishes, so that he can finally successfully take his own life. However, while he runs his errands, he keeps bumping into nurse Yeon-soo (Kang Ye-won), who apparently plays an important role in the solution of his problem.

Review: Ghost stories are nothing out of the ordinary in Asian cinema, comedies like this one are less common, though. "Hello Ghost" turns out to be an outstanding first-rate comedy. Even if it does not reinvent the genre, it always touches the right strings and manages to be both entertaining and moving. It does not happen too often, that I am as pleasantly surprised by a movie as I was with this one, especially because the title and promotional poster did not exactly suggest quality cinema. But "Hello Ghost" provides an ideal combination of comedy, drama and romance. This already turned out to be the real strength of movies such as "My Sassy Girl". The target audience should therefore be perfectly happy with this movie, but the rest will without a doubt also enjoy watching it.

The light-hearted tone is preserved throughout the entire movie, even though the film also brings up more serious subjects such as life and death. In the end, all Sang-man wants is to finally manage to put an end to his life, which by no means gives the comedy a gloomy touch but rather adds some more black humor. Eventually, and to no surprise, the ghosts are the ones showing him new paths in life. Of course, he needs to help them to get rid of them, but needless to say that while he answers their wishes, he also learns a lot about himself. So the stories are indeed full of worldly wisdoms and it seem as if the ghosts are actually with him to cure him from his death wish.

Which brings us to the only true weakness of the movie: The wishes of the four ghosts somehow split the movie up and give it an episode-like quality. Fortunately, with his directing debut (before that he had already written the script for "Miracle of Giving Fool"), Kim Young-tak gave his best to keep the movie together. Thus, the transitions of the episodes are rather smooth, the individual ghosts do not disappear right after their wishes are met and Sang-man, of course, is the link between the stories, while the nurse also plays a major part here and there. The ghosts are illustrious figures, who at the beginning only seem to be comedic caricatures, but this changes once Sang-man realizes, that apparently they can only communicate with him when he talks to them directly.

After a while, particularly the chain smoker and the crybaby grow dear to our hearts, especially because they offer a lot in terms of character development and because they are featured by two good supporting actors. Cha Tae-hyun - who has starred in numerous successful comedies, including the aforementioned "My Sassy Girl" - is allowed to bring some color and diversity to his role, even if this often turns out to be on a rather slapstick-like level as the ghosts can take control over his body. But the humor also works on a more subtle level, so there should be enough occasions for everyone to laugh. Surprising are also the more serious scenes about death when Sang-man constantly returns to the hospital and Yeon-soo. This builds a contrast to the comedic aspect of the movie.

The romance, which inevitably needs to develop during the movie, is skillfully woven into the story and is indeed appealing. Even though her role sometimes appears to be more of a supporting role, Kang Ye-won ("Quick") manages to get the most out of her character, so that something honest remains in the story between her and Sang-man. Narratively, the movie forges a rather unexpected bridge near the end. This brings a great deal of emotionality to the movie and might even make some audience members cry their eyes out. Nevertheless, it is a likable drama, which makes you forgive its directness. The grand finale is very effective and emphasizes the exponentially increasing quality of the movie. At the beginning you might not expect all that much, but "Hello Ghost" gets better and better and ends with a bang. Great genre cinema!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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