Updated: Jul 2
Without being heavy or overbearing, Move to Heaven gently reminds us of what it means to live well in a moving exploration of the stories we tell through the things we leave behind.
In 2015, the essay “Ddeonan Hooe Namgyeojin Geotdeul” (The Things Left Behind) was published by Kim Shae-byeol — the first person in South Korea who worked as a “trauma cleaner,” someone who cleans and arranges the things left by someone who passed away.
This essay became the inspiration and basis for Move to Heaven, a moving yet light-hearted 10-episode exploration of life, death, and the stories we tell through the things we leave behind.
In this Netflix original, the lead trauma cleaner is Han Geu-ru (Tang Joon-sang, Crash Landing on You) a young man with Asperger’s syndrome who has to run the family trauma cleaning business, Move to Heaven, after his father (Ji Jin-hee, Undercover) passes away.
Helping (and annoying) him is Cho Sang-gu (Lee Je-hoon, Signal, Taxi Driver), an uncle he didn’t know until after his father's death. An ex-convict and street fighter, Sang-gu has to learn to become a proper guardian to Geu-ru and employee of Move to Heaven over three months. Keeping a close eye on him is Yoon Na-mu (Hong Seung-hee, Navillera), Geu-ru's neighbor and best friend.
The triteness of death as a topic could have made this series a forgettable cliché, but Move to Heaven delivers a fresh — if somewhat gently disquieting — take through its exploration of an unfamiliar aspect of our departure from this Earth: What happens to our things after we die? What stories will they reveal about us, about how we lived, and the things we valued?
This introduction to a service most of us never knew existed allows us to look at death through a novel frame. If that were not enough, the story is delivered partly through the eyes of a neurodivergent character, who was so effectively portrayed with powerful restraint by Tang Jun-sang. Han Geu-ru’s uncommon responses to the world around him — to what might be disgusting or normal to us, to people or situations we might unconsciously judge through preconceived notions — nudge you to recognize long held and yet perhaps unrecognized biases.
Incredibly, each unique yet achingly poignant tale of death is handled with delicate balance. It never sensationalizes the already tragic reality of loss, but it never blunts the pain inflicted on those left behind.
And yet, Move to Heaven is not a show you would describe as heavy. It isn’t difficult to watch or painful to plod through, nor is it overbearing about its lessons. In fact, it is light-hearted throughout much of its running time, with a sprinkling of laugh-out-loud moments, courtesy of the unusual relationship between Geu-ru and Sang-gu.
So go ahead and watch to be reminded, oh so gently, of what it means to live and live well. Just make sure you have a box or two of tissues beside you.
Stream it: If you're in need of a healing drama, or just a good cry.
Skip it: If you're out of tissues.