Just two short weeks ago I happily placed the beautiful Navillera on my perfect score list so I was slightly hesitant to add another drama too quickly. However, after thinking about it, I realized that not rewarding this amazing drama with a perfect 10 would make my review disingenuous. So, after careful consideration I’m pleased to introduce you to Heart & Seoul’s third perfect score of 2021 – Move to Heaven.
“What the deceased wanted to say and the thoughts they wanted to share, we’re reading out for them.” – Han Jeong-U from Move to Heaven
Han Jeong-U is the owner of a small trauma cleaning business called Move to Heaven. He and his son, Han Geu-Ru, go to where a person has died and clean up the area. Sometimes they just gather up the deceased’s personal belongings and turn them over to a family member, while other situations (like murder scenes) call for a more thorough purge of the area. The two men take their job very seriously and feel privileged that they are able to help the deceased make their one last move – to heaven.
One day, Han Jeong-U suddenly passed away, leaving his beloved son and his business in the hands of his younger brother Cho Sang-Gu, whom he hadn’t been in contact with since he was in high school. Knowing he was ill, and wanting his son to have an easy transition to life without him, Jeong-U had made arrangements for his brother to become the legal guardian of Geu-Ru, who has Asperger’s syndrome. However, before Sang-Gu, who has just been released from prison, is allowed to legally adopt that position, he has to prove to Jeong-U’s attorney that he is a person suitable to be his nephew’s guardian.
Twenty-year-old Gue-Ru is a wonderful young man with Asperger’s syndrome, and having that condition makes it difficult for him to interpret people’s emotions and social interactions. He doesn’t care for physical contact, even if it’s a hug from the father he loves so much. His mother passed away when he was just a young child so he was single-handedly raised by his father, which served to make the two extremely close. Geu-Ru has a photographic memory (the uncanny ability to look at something once, memorize it, and retrieve it whenever it is needed). When he was young, he was diagnosed with selective muteness and, as a result, his parents taught him sign language so he could communicate with them, and then, one day he just began speaking. Gue-Ru loves to visit the city aquarium and knows about each fish in the gigantic tank. He can tell just by looking at an animal if it isn’t well. He also begins reciting facts about marine life whenever he becomes agitated.
Cho Sang-Gu was raised in a dysfunctional home, often hearing his father beat his mother. Sadly, the nurturing relationship he had with his older half-brother came to an abrupt halt and Sang-Gu grew up feeling abandoned and betrayed by the person he loved most. When he was older, he turned to fighting and eventually became Nightmare, an amazingly successful underground MMA fighter with 88 wins out of 89 matches. Geu-Ru describes his uncle as filthy (he picks his nose, wears the same shirt for days on end, leaves trash on the floor, doesn’t do laundry or the dishes…) and loud. Sang-Gu has no attachment to his nephew or the Move to Heaven business – he’s just taken on the three-month challenge of being Geu-Ru’s guardian for the financial security it affords him.
Yoon Na-Mu has lived across the street from the Han’s ever since she was six years old and thinks very highly of both father and son. She is protective of Geu-Ru, giving him rides home on her bike and taking his side in times of distress. She works at the aquarium as a diver in the big tank and reports any problems Geu-Ru observes with the fish to the employees there. Her parents own a small eatery called Na-Mu’s Chicken Bowl that is just below their home. When Geu-Ru’s father passes away she begins to help out at Move to Heaven so Geu-Ru isn’t overwhelmed with running the business alone and so that she can keep an eye on how Sang-Gu treats his nephew.
Han Jeong-U was a firefighter in Busan when he was first married but the family moved to Seoul when his ill wife received a terminal cancer diagnosis. He loves his son more than anything else in the world, is proud of the marvelous and unique gifts he possesses, and always treats him with love and dignity. He respects the deceased people on whose behalf he works and has instilled in his son that same value.
Although actor Tang Joon-Sang is only 18 years old he was able to very convincingly play the part of 20-year-old Han Geu-Ru who has Asperger syndrome. His acting was phenomenal, definitely worthy of an award. Joon-Sang is Malaysian-Chinese on his father’s side and Korean on his mom’s side. In 2010, he began his entertainment career by way of the theater in the musical Billy Elliot, and he was only seven at the time. He garnered attention while playing Geum Eun-Dong (a young North Korean soldier) in the drama Crash Landing On You. In the past ten years, he has been in ten theater productions, seven TV dramas, and six movies. Wow!
For information about Lee Je-Hoon, the actor who gave us a stunning performance as Uncle Cho Sang-Gu, you can go to my Where Stars Land review. I have no idea if Je-Hoon specifically worked out for this role or if he just naturally has a perfectly-toned physique but just looking at him made it very easy for me to believe Sang-Gu was an underground MMA champion.
Twenty-three-year-old Hong Seung-Hee is the actress who plays the part of Geu-Ru’s neighbor and friend, Yoon Na-Mu. Her first acting role was in the 2018 drama Just Dance. Since then she’s been in seven other dramas, one webdrama, and one feature film. I’ve seen her in I Wanna Hear Your Song, Memorist, and the drama that scored Heart & Seoul’s last perfect 10 – Navillera.
You can read a bit about Ji Jin-Hee, the handsome actor whose role is that of Han Jeong-U, Geu-Ru’s dad, by clicking on my Second to Last Love review.
Move to Heaven does something I’ve never seen any other drama do – it treats death with a quiet reverence, which is quite heartwarming. When Han Jeong-U and Geu-Ru enter a deceased person’s residence they respectfully take off their hats, humbly close their eyes, politely inform the deceased person of their passing, and quietly introduce themselves, after which they state their purpose of being there – to assist them in their last move. Then, father and son begin to gently clean (perfectly folding horribly soiled blankets before placing them in trash bags…) and organize all the items in the room (ones they deem special in a sunshine-yellow box), all the while paying careful attention to what the deceased is telling them through the belongings they left behind. To Jeong-U and Geu-Ru, trauma cleaning isn’t just a job, it’s a privilege.
During the length of the drama, Move to Heaven is called upon to deal with the deaths of several people who passed in different ways under varied circumstances – murder, suicide, illness, accident, old age/dementia… We watch as Geu-Ru, Sang-Gu, and Na-Mu listen to what the deceased is telling them and then act upon their discoveries which affords the storyline a kind of mystery to it now and then.
Move to Heaven has such an element of realism to it that, at times, I almost forgot I was watching a show. The acting is simply phenomenal, not a single thing seemed scripted or rehearsed. Move to Heaven’s perfect writing gave these actors/actresses the authentic touch they needed to make their character real. Watching Move to Heaven is like observing a family through a hidden camera. It’s definitely worthy of joining realistic dramas such as Triple, The Package, VIP, The Third Charm, and Navillera. A huge thumbs up goes to the drama’s scriptwriter, Yoon Ji-Ryeon, who also penned Boys Over Flowers, Operation Proposal, and Angel Eyes (I enjoyed all three of those shows, especially Operation Proposal).
I was fascinated when I discovered Move to Heaven was inspired by Things Left Behind, an essay written by former trauma cleaner Kim Sae-Byul.
I lost my mother, just a week shy of a year ago and I can vividly recall helping my dad clean out all her things. We didn’t go about it in as somber a way as the Move to Heaven workers do but, like them, I felt like my mom was there with us while we sorted through the belongings she had left behind, discovering things I didn’t even know about my mother in the process. As I went through her closet, I would talk out loud to her, saying things like, “This dress always looked so pretty on you. I remember you wore those big gold earrings with it, didn’t you?” This drama not only reaffirms the fact that death is an emotionally difficult event that will touch all of our lives someday (if it hasn’t already) but it reminds us that the deceased is a human that deserves respect even if they are no longer with us.
I am so sorry that I can’t give you any details about Move to Heaven’s soundtrack. I guess I was too wrapped up in the story to have paid close attention to the music. Because I couldn’t remember any songs from the drama, I went to YouTube to refresh my memory but was unsuccessful in finding anything from the show’s soundtrack. However, if there had been a not-so-great song I’m sure I would have remembered it so the fact that nothing comes to mind is actually a good thing.
Thinking back on the drama, there are three backgrounds/sceneries that stand out in my mind – the breathtakingly beautiful aquarium Geu-Ru frequents, the dark and dirty place where the underground fighting takes place, and the sickeningly gruesome bedroom where an old woman with dementia dies. Watch out for that last one. Uncle Sang-Gu doesn’t even make it through the doorway without vomiting. Even though I knew it wasn’t real, my mysophobia went through the roof!
I couldn’t find a single thing wrong with Move to Heaven. It’s perfect, start to finish – the kind of drama whose story needs to be told and should be watched by everyone. Just remember to make sure there’s a box of tissues nearby when you sit down to watch it. I’m sure it will change your perspective on death – and life.
Chemistry between characters/actors
Excellent character growth
Reverent perspective of death and the deceased
Not a single thing