K-Movie Review: Sunset in my Hometown (2018)

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Me being the Park Jung-min fan that I am, I decided to watch some of his movies yesterday. The first one I watched was ‘Psychokinesis’ starring Ryu Seung-ryong (Miracle in Cell No. 7) and Shim Eun-kyung (The Princess and the Matchmaker) which was your simple and typical superhero movie. Nothing about the movie was too different, great, or noteworthy so while I enjoyed it to an extent, it wasn’t anything I haven’t seen before.

I then moved on to watch ‘Sunset in my Hometown’ which also stars Kim Go-eun (Goblin). The movie was released earlier this year in July and follows Park Jung-min’s character Hak-soo as he aspires to become a rapper, but is sent back home to his hometown to take care of his ailing father. There, he reunites with his high school friends and has to confront all the issues regarding his family and relationships that he avoided before he moved away to Seoul to achieve his dreams of becoming a rapper.

I know I know, the premise doesn’t sound interesting. I too was a little bit iffy upon reading the storyline to the movie. An aspiring rapper revisits his hometown. How can something like that be fun or entertaining or great? Except, ‘Sunset in my Hometown’ was all of those things and much more.

As mentioned earlier, Hak-soo – who was brilliantly played by Park Jung-min – revisits his hometown of Byeonsan to visit his sickly father who he doesn’t have the greatest relationship with. His father abandoned him and his mother when they were younger, and failed to attend Mom’s funeral when she passed away. Ever since then, Hak-soo’s never felt the need or care to maintain his relationship with his father and they’ve always been on bad terms. This could explain for the anger and frustration Hak-soo continually faces throughout the movie when he visits his father and has to take care of him as his guardian since he’s never really cared for his father like that his entire life.

However, it’s this hate relationship between Hak-soo and Dad that proves and highlights Hak-soo’s growth as a character throughout the movie. We witness Hak-soo avoid his father, yell at his father, and even punch his father in the face out of revenge and anger only to cry when he stands by his father’s last moments of his life. Hak-soo went from despising and resenting his father to learning to appreciate him by the end of the movie. Hak-soo’s relationship with his father was never the main plot of the movie which some might misunderstand it to be, but rather was the driving force that illustrated Hak-soo’s maturity after returning to his hometown.

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Hak-soo’s concerns about his father was not the only thing that the aspiring rapper had to confront when he revisited his hometown. He also reunited with high school colleague Sun-mi (Kim Go-eun) who harbored an unrequited love for Hak-soo back in high school. Though this is also another sub-plot within the movie, it’s also another sub-plot that showcases just how much Hak-soo had grown. It was thanks to Sun-mi that Hak-soo returned back home to revisit his ailing father; she cared for Hak-soo in other ways than just having a one-sided love for him. She wanted him to improve his relationship with his father, and also supported him when he performed on stage as a rapper towards the end of the movie. Sun-mi was sort of like a guardian angel to Hak-soo in multiple ways; she was always looking out for him, accompanying him in every single step of the way, and protecting him from harm. The two improve their connection and bond with each other throughout the movie and it’s this notion of enjoying the sunset that especially allows the two to click. More than anything, Hak-soo and Sun-mi enjoy watching the sunset because of the different respective reasons and feelings that they are reminded of when they look at it. The sunset has various meanings for the both of them, but it’s something that they enjoy and love. This could explain for the title of the movie.

Hak-soo also confronts other high school colleagues when he revisits his hometown which takes up the other third of the movie. While it’s my least favorite sub-plot, it was heart-warming watching him stand up for himself or realize what it was that he truly wants or loves. Thanks to his high school friends, Hak-soo comes to the realization that nothing’s really changed back in his hometown. The people there are still the same and it’s still the small town that he grew up in. Hak-soo also realizes that even though he’s moved out to Seoul to achieve his dreams of becoming a rapper, he hasn’t really left mentally. His past comes back to haunt him when he returns to Byeonsan and nothing has really changed. He thinks he’s moved on, but he really hasn’t, and no one in the town has either. The issues he thought he could avoid by moving out to Seoul are still existent so it’s not until he returns that he confronts these issue such as his relationship with Dad and the unrequited love from Sun-mi.

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You can tell that Hak-soo developed and matured immensely by the end of the movie when he performs on stage one last time. The lyrics to the song was essentially about his dad who had passed away by the time of that performance and basically just describes his relationship with his father. He has regrets, but he also knows how precious life is to him now and he’ll make the most of the time that he has left. If Hak-soo wants to seek revenge on his father, the best revenge is to simply live his life which Hak-soo vows to do. It’s a bittersweet performance and definitely one that is raw, real, and intense. It was even more heart-warming to see Sun-mi watching him from the audience perform this track and cheering him in awe. In the performance, Hak-soo dedicates the other half of the song to Sun-mi and it was just so adorable and nice. The visit back to his hometown was what Hak-soo needed to mature and to grow, and he definitely did that when he returned.

I watched a few interviews and videos of the movie after having watched it because I was just curious as to how everything was filmed. I learned that even after filming for the movie was done, Park Jung-min was still rapping and recording music in the recording studio for the movie soundtrack I believe. He also penned some of the lyrics to the songs himself which is impressive. Director Lee Joon-ik also joked around that he wanted Kim Go-eun to play the role of Sun-mi because he knew she would have the star power to draw investors in. The filming of this movie occurred around the time when Goblin was airing so her popularity at that time was at a high demand. Lol. At the end of the movie during the credits, Hak-soo and Sun-mi got married and everyone all danced to different songs to celebrate. There was a video of the dance practice for that scene so that was also fun to watch. I’m going to keep watching any more available interviews and videos just because I wanna see more interactions between the cast members.

In the movie, Hak-soo also appears on the show Show Me the Money since he’s an aspiring rapper so that part was hilarious to me. The scenes when he was on SMTM was just too good to be true and pretty similar to how the actual show is so I really enjoyed those scenes too. Rappers DOK2, The Quiett, and Mad Clown appeared in the drama and are also actual judges/producers on SMTM. They acted in the movie exactly like how they are on the rap show so that was fun to watch, lol.

Overall, ‘Sunset in my Hometown’ was an unexpected watch. I went in thinking this movie was going to try hard to be realistic, heart-warming, funny, and more, but it actually turned out to be all those things effortlessly. It was a breezy and easy watch, and you got to know the characters through Hak-soo’s eyes. The movie’s about two hours long, but you never really felt like it was dragging on for no particular reason; you enjoyed all the scenes and was just watching it as it went. The karaoke scene in this movie in particular would have to be my favorite part.

This movie is just about life and all the crazy and wild things that you encounter in life. I wouldn’t necessarily describe the movie as a coming of age movie, but I would say that it gives off a ‘slice of life’ kind of feel. Hak-soo was a clueless and immature boy when he left his hometown, and transformed into a more conscious and grateful man after having returned. Hak-soo definitely grew when he returned to his hometown and it was thanks to Sun-mi, his dad, and all his high school colleagues that he was able to witness what would be the most beautiful sunset in his life yet. Similarly, just like how his family and friends are the sunset to him, Hak-soo too is the sunset to them and more importantly, to himself.

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You can watch ‘Sunset in my Hometown’ here or here! A recommended watch 🙂 (And I still am very much in love with Park Jung-min. He’s so great and brilliant!).

Bonus: Extra screenshots from the movie 🙂

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