Spread it or ignore it?

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Netflix’s South Korean Series Navillera is part of a growing trend for k-dramas: it is an adaptation of a webtoon, a type of digital comic that was created in Korea in the mid-2000s and is gaining popularity in many Asian countries . Originally written by Hun and illustrated by Ji-min for the Daum platform, Navillera is now a TV series starring Song Kang and produced by Han Dong-hwa (Workforce 38, Miss Lee). Netflix will roll out episodes daily; here’s a look at the first hour of the series.

NAVILLERA: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

Opening shot: Deok-chul (Park In-hwan) slowly comes into focus in a medium shot.

The essential: Yong-pil is gone. His friends gather for lunch and a drink to commemorate, although Deok-chul says he quit drinking at the age of 70 – a joke, as we later learn that it is also his 70th birthday. . They talk about mortality. So many members of this group of friends miss these gatherings – they are caring for their grandchildren or are themselves sick or dead. Deok-chul appears to have an optimistic disposition despite the gloomy and unhappy speech. On the way home, he stops at a ballet studio, which he sees in slow motion with ultra-dramatic music, so that must mean something. At first it’s empty, then he sees a dancer on the floor, and Deok-chul is delighted with his graceful and majestic movements (to even more dramatic music). We don’t know if the scene is real or fantastic, but does it matter? Probably not, because there is a sudden feeling that Deok-chul has wasted time that he wants to catch up.

It turns out the dancer was real, not fictional. His name is Chae-rok (Song Kang), he’s 23 and owns The Stuff. His trainer, former ballet star Ki Seung-joo (Kim Tae-hoon), thinks he is a great talent. But Chae-rok lacks focus, and like most ballet coaches in TV and movies, Seung-joo is harsh with his criticisms. Chae-rok chose to train for a National Ballet audition instead of a tour; he works as a waiter in a fancy restaurant and will not stop concentrating on dancing; her father is in prison and her mother is dead. He seems paralyzed by his depression. Some former classmates – and maybe old friends – visit the restaurant and shame Chae-rok for his father’s misdeeds. He carries this burden with him and finds himself at a crossroads, as his father is about to be released from incarceration. “I don’t have a father,” he stammered astringently.

The episode switches between the stories of Deok-chul and Chae-rok. At Deok-chul’s birthday party, his children and adult grandchildren bicker bitterly; when asked what his birthday wishes are, his wife Choi Hae-nam (Na Moon-hee) answers the question for him. Deok-chul visits an old friend locked up in an assisted living hospital; the friend laments that he never built a boat and took it to the sea, and tells Deok-chul that he must follow his dreams while his body and mind are still healthy. A long-retired postman Deok-chul is bored and dissatisfied, not content to just sit around frenzy Bridgerton all day.

Chae-rok treats a persistent knee injury; on the day of his audition, he rushes before his big moment, choosing instead to say hello to his father when he leaves. He and Deok-chul’s paths cross without their realizing it; once they are on the same bus, another time they are in the same audience, fascinated by a performance by Swan Lake. It’s fate, playing with them, and us a bit too. Does it seem inevitable that the dancer will become the old man’s teacher, and the two can find a little more purpose in their lives (and Deok-chul’s annoying family will likely cast tons of doubts on him)? Of course, it looks that way.

Navillera
Photo: Netflix

What shows will this remind you of? Navillera isn’t a romance, which sets her apart from many other webtoons turned k-dramas. Two other adaptations of this type on Netflix deviate from this formula: Mystic Pop-up Bar and Itaewon class.

Our opinion : How can Chae-rok believe this old man’s dream when he doesn’t even believe in himself? This seems to be the crux of the Navillera opener, once we’ve cut down on some of the unnecessary indulgences in this overly long 66-minute episode. Han Dong-hwa and screenwriter Lee Eun-mi here make up a pair of sympathetic characters – each suffering a loss in the opening and struggling with unresolved emotions – and that’s why it works despite several flabby and long scenes and a little too many extravagant slow motion wrapped in a syrupy musical score.

These elements are an integral part of this type of melodrama; Fortunately, the premise is unusual, and the key performances are strong enough to get through plenty of overheated brooding scenes. The subplots starring Seung-joo (who has a thorny relationship with his ex-wife, also a grim-faced ballet teacher) and Deok-chul’s granddaughter (who coincidentally does an internship at the Chae-rok restaurant ) are promising. The series has time to flourish, of course – thoughtful editing and little more than the occasional comedic blossoming (see “sleeping star” below), and Navillera can find a more solid dramatic footing.

Gender and skin: Nothing yet.

Starting shot: Chae-rok, Seung-joo and Deok-chul stand in the middle of very dramatic soft lighting in the middle of the ballet studio.

Sleeper Star: Na Moon-hee has the potential to be a stage thief, as evidenced by the scene in which Deok-chul tries to share his thoughts and feelings with his wife, who takes turns talking and snoring throughout the movie. conversation.

Most pilot line: “There are fewer and fewer of us every time,” said one of Deok-chul’s friends at Yong-pil’s funeral lunch.

Our call: Stream it. If you’re not at least half-invested in Deok-chul’s long-held desire to be more than just a boring mailman family man, your heart is at least half a stone.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work on johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.

Flux Navillera on Netflix



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