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Film review: Will You Be There – Kim Yun-seok tries to change the past in Korean time-travelling romance

The movie derives much of its humour from the awkward encounters between the older and younger versions of its main protagonist, but is simplistic and ponderous in places

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 April, 2017, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 April, 2017, 5:31pm

2.5/5 stars

Will You Be There is a low-tech time-travelling melodrama that exploits its premise more for narrative short cuts than as a source of genuine intrigue. Adapted by South Korean filmmaker Hong Ji-young from French author Guillaume Musso’s novel of the same name, this fantasy-inflected romance should nevertheless prove engaging enough for viewers longing for a heavy dose of “what if” sentimentality. Sci-fi geeks should probably stay away.

Kim Yun-seok (The Chaser) plays Soo-hyun, a veteran surgeon who is privately suffering from terminal cancer. After he’s given 10 magic pills by a blind village elder during a humanitarian stop in Cambodia, however, the unmarried loner soon discovers that the drug can take him back exactly 30 years in time to 1985 – right before his aquarium trainer girlfriend Yeon-a (Chae Seo-jin) died in an accident – for about 20 minutes each time he takes one of the pills.

The movie derives much of its humour from the awkward encounters between the two Soo-hyuns (Byun Yo-han plays the younger), and there’s much poignancy to be found when the older Soo-hyun sees his girl again. Still, the butterfly effect of his attempts to keep Yeon-a alive – without also erasing his best buddy (Kim Sang-ho) and daughter (Park Hye-soo), born 10 years later, from his life – is often treated too simplistically.

Film review: Duckweed – nostalgia for late 1990s China in Han Han’s time-travelling drama

The result is a sometimes diverting movie that becomes increasingly ponderous as characters try, repeatedly, to reshuffle the deck to secure the best outcome possible – something that doesn’t exactly feel earned.

Will You Be There opens on April 27

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