Korean BL Films

Wish You

CONTAINS SPOILERS


Do you believe in love at first sight? I don’t. However, I do believe in instant attraction. That moment when your eyes land on someone and the body scrambles to keep up with the rush of emotions. The heart races and ears grow hot. Everything about the other person becomes more vivid—the color of their lips, the smell of their cologne, and the sound of their voice. Butterflies take flight in the stomach, and you suddenly find yourself daydreaming, wondering what it would be like to run into that person again. This rush of emotions is what I felt while watching Yoon Sang-Yi fall hard for Kang In-Soo in the first eight minutes of Wish You, the South Korean BL currently available on Netflix.

Review by BJ Sheldon

Wish You initially released as a ten-minute eight-episode web drama before airing on Netflix. The movie version includes an additional twenty minutes of footage, adding enough new content to flesh out the original story. It expanded on pivotal scenes, helping to fill in blanks left by the series.

There are three things I seriously enjoy: K-dramas, Boy’s Love (BL) dramas, and music. Wish You combines all three. In the latter part of 2020, Korea started releasing high-quality BL series, much to the fans’ delight. So, in the weeks leading up to this particular release, I had high expectations for it. 

The Story

Yoon Sang-Yi, an intern at an entertainment company, discovers Kang In-Soo busking on Seoul’s streets. In-Soo’s singing piques Sang-Yi’s interest, the musician’s talent and presence leaving  Sang-Yi frozen in place. As the evening progresses, it’s clear Sang-Yi is having a difficult time getting the handsome busker off his mind. Then, in a twist of fate, they run into each other at a bus stop. Overhearing a conversation between the busker and his friend, Sang-Yi covertly learns In-Soo’s name before following the singer on social media. As time passes, the young intern becomes infatuated with In-Soo and his music.

“I wanted to prove to my father I could make it as a singer even though he tries to stop me. I wanted to tell him that I’d live my life without his help. But I realized one thing after I met you and while I was living with you. I’m really happy when I sing with you and make a song with you. Can you help me move forward again?”

 – Kang In-Soo

Kang In-Soo is a puzzle. Playing music and singing appears to bring him joy. He likes to tease, publicly joking around with his best friend Choi Min-Seong. And yet, something is lingering beneath the surface of his playful demeanor that tells a different story. Although he exudes a fun musical persona, there’s an air of mystery surrounding the musician. An air of uncertainty and apprehension clouds In-Soo’s eyes, but this begins to change after he meets Sang-Yi. As the pair becomes acquainted, their respect for each other’s talent grows. When they play music together, it’s as if they are breathing in unison.

“I’ll do my best. No. I’ll do whatever I can to help him sing.”

– Yoon Sang-Yi

In life, most of us have experienced a crush on someone we weren’t brave enough to reveal our feelings to for fear of rejection. I felt a deep connection to the timid Sang-Yi and his unspoken affection for In-Soo. While I may not have been a shy teenager, I was often awkward and bashful around boys I had crushes on, especially those I thought were out of my league. I don’t believe for a second that In-Soo is out of Sang-Yi’s league, but I do think Sang-Yi’s attraction to another man holds him back from revealing his feelings. His unrequited love fueled the butterflies in my stomach. Every time he stole a look at his idol, I felt his longing pain. Things become even more complicated when the entertainment company Sang-Yi works for signs In-Soo to the label and assigns Sang-Yi as his roommate.

While it appeared that Sang-Yi’s unrequited love would remain unspoken, it isn’t long before In-Soo discovers his new roommate’s true feelings. After a night of drunken revelry, a sober Sang-Yi nearly kisses a passed out Kang In-Soo before panicking. In-Soo opens his eyes to watch a tormented Sang-Yi walk away, making it evident to the viewer that he was conscious the entire time. While In-Soo appears thoughtful and somewhat confused, it doesn’t become an obstacle to their friendship. Instead, In-Soo seems strangely more comfortable with Sang-Yi after the incident, the two of them growing closer than ever. Like two halves of a whole, they team up to compose and arrange In-Soo’s songs. Sang-Yi’s timid and sweet demeanor slowly melts away before In-Soo. He becomes outspoken and open, fully supporting In-Soo’s endeavors. With each passing day and more time spent together, In-Soo finds himself attached to Sang-Yi’s presence.

Up until this point, I don’t believe In-Soo understood his feelings for Sang-Yi. Whether or not In-Soo consciously realizes it, the way he looks at Sang-Yi, touches him, rustles his hair, and leans in close at every opportunity reveals he already views Sang-Yi as more than just a friend. The things he says and the situations he puts himself in seems like a test to discern his feelings for Sang-Yi. 

There is a seemingly innocent moment when Kang In-Soo asks Sang-Yi if he can spend the night at his apartment. The way he inquires made me wonder if he hoped something would happen between them or if he just enjoyed teasing his friend. But when Sang-Yi later surprises him with a kiss, it catches In-Soo off-guard. Although In-Soo doesn’t appear repulsed or upset, he does appear confused. I’ve watched the scene multiple times. The first time, I thought In-Soo was questioning his sexuality. However, the more times I viewed the scene, I found it more plausible that In-Soo needed to reconcile feelings he already had.

“It’s you. You are my other half.”

– Kang In-Soo

While this is a story about two men who are drawn together through music, it’s also about two people who find the courage to do and be what and who they want to be. By being there for one another and believing in each other, their confidence grows. Except for his best friend, In-Soo doesn’t feel like anyone truly believes in him. Sang-Yi changes that. After meeting Sang-Yi, In-Soo realizes there is someone who wants to see him succeed. Sang-Yi makes him feel understood and less alone.

Three things about Wish You stood out for me, making it one of the best Korean BL movies I’ve seen.

The Actors

Kang In-Soo (portrayed by Kang In-Soo) is a member of the second generation Kpop group Myname, and Lee Sang (portrayed by Yoon Sang-Yi) is a member of the Kpop group IMFACT. Although Wish You is In-Soo’s drama debut, he does not come across as a rookie actor. Relaxed and natural in his role as the handsome idol-to-be, I never found him awkward. Instead, he seems at home in front of the camera. His smile, his curious gazes, and relaxed posture adds to his character’s charm. Also, don’t get me started on his perfect Cupid’s bow (Shhh … I have a thing for well-defined Cupid’s bow lips). Not to mention the scene where he answers the door shirtless. I pause that scene every single time. I mean, look at him! Sang-Yi certainly does.

Although not by much, Lee Sang has a bit more acting experience, having made small guest appearances and supporting roles in the past. However, this is his first leading role. I don’t know how others felt about his performance, but I was impressed with his ability to portray various emotions with uncanny realism. Every lovesick look he gives In-Soo convinced me that he was falling deeper in love with his idol. Watching him slowly gain confidence in his assistant role while helping Kang In-Soo arrange his songs was satisfying, as was watching him come out of his timid shell.

Lee Sang’s portrayal of an overly polite, self-conscious, shy people-pleaser made me want to hug him, especially when he is sad or upset. Kang In-Soo’s ability to make me fall for his playful-yet-sad loner persona was impressive, considering his lack of acting experience. The scene where they banter about the use of honorifics despite little difference in their ages had me giggling, specifically because of Sang-Yi’s awkward attempt to tease In-Soo. 

Although they struggle with doubts, neither of their characters lack confidence in their musical abilities. In-Soo worries about his career progression while Sang-Yi finds it harder and harder to hide his romantic feelings every time In-Soo teases or touches him. As their friendship and trust grows, they manage to open themselves up to something that neither expects. Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone else playing these two roles.

The Cinematography

There’s something special about watching an aesthetically pleasing series. The director’s vision, the editing team’s expertise, the location scout’s ability to find the perfect filming locale, and the overall production quality determines how great a project looks on screen. If everyone isn’t working passionately in sync, a series or movie can flop. The team that worked on Wish You put together a film that rivals many of the Kdramas I’ve seen in recent years. With the aerial shots, coloring, sets, and evening cityscapes, there were times I had to pause to take in the beauty happening on screen. Seoul’s city became an important character in itself, providing a pretty backdrop for the two main characters as they spent time getting acquainted. By strolling through the park, standing on a rooftop overlooking the evening-clad city, playing music together in In-Soo’s apartment, and traversing the sidewalks and storefronts, In-Soo and Sang-Yi made Seoul an important supporting actor in the overall story.

The Music

It’s hard to put into words how I feel about the music in this series.

My initial reaction was simply, “Wow.” 

As far as soundtracks go, this is possibly one of the best OSTs (Official Soundtracks) of any Kdrama I’ve seen. There were three main characters in Wish You: Yoon Sang-Yi, Kang In-Soo, and the music. The melody and lyrics worked hand-in-hand with the story. Although it was his music, the lyrics of the songs that In-Soo sang in the studio made it feel like he was expressing what Sang-Yi wanted to tell In-Soo.

Excerpt of “Wish For You”

Our dazzlingly beautiful names
We were attracted to each other
Like destiny
We recognized each other right away
I feel that your name and my name
Are becoming one

Excerpt of “Close to You”

All day I can’t stop smiling
I don’t look like myself
My feelings for you keep growing inside me
I can’t stop myself
From going to you
Can I take step closer you?
I can’t hide my feelings
No matter how hard I try
I’m still shy of telling you
How I feel about you
But if it’s okay with you
I want to get closer to you
Little by little

Whenever I’m working on a new book, playing the right song helps me feel how the scene should be written. It allows me to tap into the characters’ emotions. Whether I want the reader to cry, gasp, or panic, the right song will inspire the words I need to portray on paper. The same concept applies to film. If the music is overpowering, doesn’t fit with the story, or is too subtle, it can detract from the entire movie. Music should place viewers in the right state of mind for what’s to come. Music can inspire tears, laughter, or swooning. For me, a soundtrack can make or break a film.

The music in Wish You is perfection. Honestly, there isn’t a single song I hate. Nothing felt out of place. Casting actors who are both talented singers and musicians in real life only adds to its appeal.

Despite how much I loved this film, there are also things I disliked. 

  1. We never got a proper explanation behind Kang In-Soo’s apartment, and I wanted that. Although his family has money, they don’t support his music ambitions, which tells me they wouldn’t pay for a stunning apartment. A stunning apartment I’d sell my soul to live in, I might add.
  2. I want to see this story continue. It’s common knowledge for those who follow the Kpop scene that romantic relationships are discouraged between idols. A romantic relationship between two men would undoubtedly cause a scandal. With the addition of Kang In-Soo’s family’s wealth and influence, it’s a recipe for serious angst. The way the story ended, I needed more. By starting up an independent record label, Kang In-Soo left me needy for details.  Does Kang In-Soo’s music take off? Does his initial album succeed or flop? 
  3.  Although adding twenty minutes of content to the movie version somewhat made up for the too-short web drama, it still needed more. Call me selfish, but I dream of the day we get a full, 16-episode BL series.

In conclusion, Wish You didn’t feel like a typical BL. The story didn’t focus on two men fighting their feelings, questioning their sexuality, or pushing each other away due to discomfort. Instead, it focused on how romance bloomed from friendship and a shared love of music. By focusing more on the story and less on particular BL tropes, this drama takes an essential step toward normalizing lead gay relationships in dramas. While recent years have given us strong gay supporting characters in Kdramas, I look forward to the day they are more than supporting roles. They deserve to shine in the spotlight.

If you are interested in watching this amazing film, check it out on Netflix. You won’t regret it.

Check out the OST

One Comment on “Korean BL Films

  1. Great review, I agree with you on most points. The acting is a bit too cliché at some points, and the realistic aspect of the world they live in a bit too “polished” but it’s cute and endearing.

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