“소리는 세상을 바꾼다. (Music changes the world.)” This is a movie review I’ve been wanting to write for many months now, but am only getting around to writing now, after watching the English-subtitled version of the movie recently. I’m not sure how many of you are interested in Pansori or Korean traditional music, but I’d like to encourage you to give it a chance because you’ll be wowed, and probably moved to tears. Even if you don’t understand the words. Because truly, music transcends language. So here’s my attempt at reviewing this beautiful movie, The Singer (소리꾼), which nimbly weaves in music with storytelling to bring us a heartwarming show about family, friendship, and the spirit of perseverance.
[WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!]
The Singer follows Hak-gyu (played by professional pansori singer Lee Bong Geun), a commoner in Joseon who travels around the country in search of his kidnapped wife, Gan-na (played by Lee Yu Ri). He is joined by his partially blind daughter Cheong-yi (played by Kim Ha Yeon), and his best buddy Dae-bong (played by Park Cheol Mi). Together with Dae-bong, Hak-gyu entertains villagers throughout their journey with stories and music, to feed themselves, as well as to seek the villagers’ help to find Gan-na.
We learn that there is a notorious gang who goes around the country, kidnapping women and forcing them into slavery. Despite the King’s attempts to catch these criminals, he has been unsuccessful in doing so because the gang is backed by high-ranking officials.
A year passes by with no leads. While walking along the stream one day, they meet a businessman who is crying because his travelling companion fell into the river and is feared to have drowned. Cheong-yi, with her heightened sense of listening, hears a bubbling from the other side of the river and Hak-gyu goes into the water to save the man, who turns out to be a monk. Out of gratitude, the monk insists on following the trio on their journey, together with the businessman.
During one of their performances, they meet a fallen nobleman (played by Shinhwa’s Kim Dong Wan) and his servant, who also end up tagging along on their journey to find Gan-na. Together, the whole group continue to travel in search for Gan-na, going through dangerous situations together (like running away from bees), and doing good together (burying the bodies of those who had drowned and were swept up on to the beach).
I don’t want to give away too much of the movie but I’ll let you know that I watched this movie 5 times and I still laughed and cried each and every time. The friendship between Hak-gyu and Dae-bong will really warm your heart. The antics of the travellers will tickle your throats. The love between a parent and a child will make you choke back tears. And you’ll feel really warm and fuzzy inside when the movie ends.
I had the opportunity to have a chat with the director of this movie and he’s mentioned that they’re in talks to release this movie on Amazon Prime and Hulu, so you know what to do when the movie is out! Go watch!
Check out the trailer below (no English subtitles):