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The Weekend Watch: "Dream"

Park Seo-joon and IU star as an unlikely duo that team up to coach and film Korea's homeless football team. But with so much stacked against their team, can they ever get ready in time for an improbable World Cup victory?

The Plot

Seo Hong-dae (Park Seo-joon) is an overly competitive and cantankerous professional football player who has just assaulted a reporter in public. To repair his already crappy image, he's been ordered to coach a Korean soccer team. The problem is, the team he has to coach actually plays for the Homeless World Cup, which means he'll be coaching ahjussi (older Korean male) players who aren't that talented and are quite out of shape.

Lee Ji-eun(IU) is Lee So-min, a documentary producer who always seems to be on the verge of a mental breakdown. Broke, tired, and hounded by never-ending student loans, she's been tasked to create a tear-jerking documentary that might just give her the break she's long been desperate for.

The duo's grand plan — when they are not actively trying to throttle each other — is to choose the players with the most pitiful stories and turn them into content for her documentary. But what starts out as a shallow ploy for ratings becomes much more as they begin to learn about the lives and struggles of their homeless and impoverished players.

IU, dream, dream korean movie, kdrama, k-movie, park seojun, netflix
Lee So-min (IU) trying to get those clickbait moments

Our Review

What if, instead of making a movie about champions, one makes a movie about a team that finishes last?

That's right. Dream is based on the true story of the Korean team that finished LAST in the 2010 Homeless World Cup football games in Brazil. It's the ironic sports movie that proves how you win is a better story than if you ever score.

Written and directed by Extreme Job's Lee Byeong-heon, Dream relies on his tried-and-tested formula of combining comedy, reality, and lots of sincere heart. One quickly sees that it's not a movie that banks on the popularity of two of its biggest stars — Park Seo-joon and IU — but about the players and their struggles with homelessness. Director Lee wanted to make a film about the homeless that didn't run on pure pity or melodrama. That goal, it seems, has been achieved nicely by Dream, though it isn't as entertaining or as memorable as his other juggernaut, Extreme Job.

IU, dream, dream korean movie, kdrama, k-movie, park seojun, netflix
Going against European teams is the least of their problems.

Dream shows the very real plight of the homeless, and isn't a football movie as much as it is an expository on homelessness in Korea. One by one, as the players reveal their backstories, they become more than just out-of-shape football players. They become their pitiful human selves, complete with struggles and dreams. The stars of this movie are rightfully our ahjussis who use football as a crutch and a respite from the hardships of their lives. The performances of Ko Chang-seok (The Con Artists), Baek Ji-won (Extraordinary Attorney Woo), Kim Jong-soo (Kingdom), and young Lee Hyun-woo (Money Heist: Korea) are earnest, and at times painfully heartfelt.

IU, dream, dream korean movie, kdrama, k-movie, park seojun, netflix
These two make a good team — if they can stop annoying each other first.

Interestingly enough, the movie's big stars are relegated to the background, but that doesn't mean they don't step up. Park Seo-joon as the reluctant coach is still out there flexing his comedic timing alongside IU's quick wit, and their animosity-filled banter is entertaining to watch. Fans of Park Seo-joon will also be pleased as well to know that the movie doesn't scrimp on showing off his athleticism and physicality. The boy can rock a football kit in style.

In exploring the difficulties of homelessness, Hong-dae and So-min see the alcoholism, violence, mental issues, and the many traumatic experiences that bring one to the brink. Everyone on the team has a tragic story to tell. They're divorced, widowed, rejected, or bereaved. But seeing the players balance football and their daily work adds more substance to their characters, and makes you root for the team even more.

IU, dream, dream korean movie, kdrama, k-movie, park seojun, netflix
All heart and no home — the Korean Homeless Football Team.

There's the requisite sports practice montage, as all sports movies are wont to employ, but Dream thankfully keeps it real but not turning these ahjussis into improbable sports heroes overnight. The movie wobbles in the second act when it dives deeper into the plight of the players instead of their sports training, but that choice does add to the bleakness and hopelessness of the team's profile. Dream also doesn't gloss over the fact that the Korean team is quite unprepared against the European teams, but it does make up for it by having so much heart that it is almost impossible not to be moved by the end of the match (that is, if you can set aside the commentator's cheesy spiel). It is to the immense credit of the players — who by now are the real stars of this movie — to deliver on the exhausting portrayal of struggle that is the heart of all sports and life.

Though clunky in the first two acts and flat in some moments, Dream moves like a fantastic soccer game that delivers the heart and the goods in the final minutes. Ordinary sports movies may be happy to emphasize the eternal need for hope, but Dream offers more than that. It wants to show what hope — and a home — can do.

Stream if you're in the mood for a feel-good sports movie.

Skip if you're looking for a romance between the leads. We'll spare you the two hours and tell you there's none. Sorry.

Dream is on Netflix.

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