Within the first minutes of the premiere episode of Netflix’s Move to Heaven (무브 투 헤븐: 나는 유품정리사입니다), it is easy to see how the series is well on its way to being one of the year’s very best. So far, it is certainly one of the most moving, charming and fun series of the year. Powered by a sincere and emotionally resonant story and a pair of absolutely captivating performances from Tang Joon Sang and Lee Je Hoon, Move to Heaven is an unforgettable must-watch.
Inspired by the nonfiction essay “Things Left Behind” by Kim Sae Byul, Move to Heaven begins by introducing us to father and son “trauma cleaners.” Geu Ru (Tang Jun Sang) and his father Jeong Woo (Ji Jin Hee). Through their Move to Heaven service, they clear out the possessions of the deceased from their residences at the request of loved ones or the authorities.
20-year-old Geu Ru has Asperger syndrome. And after the unexpected death of his father, he meets his estranged uncle San Gu (Lee Je Hoon) who becomes his guardian after being release from jail. Reluctant to take care of his nephew, San Gu nonetheless must help the intelligent Geu Ru continue to provide services for those who request them from Move to Heaven.
Collecting the most important items of the deceased in a yellow box which they will later present to loved ones or next of kin, they learn about the lives of and uncover stories about the deceased. And with the help of Geu Ru’s intelligence and incredible memory, they are able to help bring peace to the departed and those they have left behind.
Move to Heaven is an enthralling mix of character-driven slice-of-life drama and a procedural-like case of week. Through Geu Ru and San Gu’s work, they come across a diverse group of people. Whether it is the deceased or their loved ones, they all have stories to tell. And Geu Ru and San Gu (with the help of Geu Ru’s friend and neighbor Na Mu [Hong Seung Hee]) manage to bring peace, closure and the due respect to the lives of the deceased.
At its core, Move to Heaven offers up a sincere look at how people today view life and death. The unique stories of the people they (as Geu Ru puts it) are helping with their final move each involve relatable and timely themes in today’s world. Through the Move to Heaven service, we the viewer get to unravel the often emotional and poignant stories alongside Geu Ru and Sang Gu. They remind us of the dignity that every life deserves, as well as touch upon the very idea of humanity and the ways it can be celebrated and twisted in contemporary society. And each story is handled with a warmth, care and sincerity.
Having that procedural element, there is definitely lots of potential for many more episodes beyond the ten of this first(?) season.
But as engaging and interesting each “request” of the week is, Move to Heaven elevates itself on the thoroughly captivating performances of Tang Joon Sang and Lee Je Hoon.
The series’ ten episodes will quickly fly by thanks in part to the brisk, though carefully-paced writing. But even more so while soaking in the incredible performances of our two main characters. Both charming, fun and emotional; Tang Joon Sang and Lee Je Hoon turn in career performances that help bring these deep, multi-layered characters to vivid life.
Tang Joon Sang is absolutely excellent as Han Geu Ru. Geu Ru is an immediately endearing character. Especially after the death of his father when he has to take over as the senior at Move to Heaven, Geu Ru’s innocent, kind-hearted nature helps to bring about profound effects for everyone they meet. (And most especially his Uncle Sang Gu.) Tang Joon Sang delivers a pitch perfect performance. It is certainly not an easy role to bring to life, but Tang Joon Sang makes it look effortless.
Lee Je Hoon is definitely an experienced actor who has proven his versatility in many different genres. But as Cho San Gu, he delivers a nuanced performance that carefully lays out the character’s difficult emotional journey in a way that makes every twist, turn and emotional climax hit the mark. Whether it is scenes of San Gu’s blunt, no filter personality, his amusing verbal sparring with “next door” Na Mu or the touching moments where he grows closer to his nephew Geu Ru; Lee Je Hoon unquestionably delivers.
Together, Tang Joon Sang and Lee Je Hoon’s chemistry is absolutely riveting. Between the fun banter and the more serious moments, the relationship that develops between the uncle and nephew would be enough to make a series enjoyable to watch on its own. But in Move to Heaven, that is just the biggest of several reasons the series is a winner.
Among the talented ensemble and guest cast, Hong Seung Hee helps to add some of the series’ fun, lighthearted moments while also allowing Na Mu to be Geu Ru’s caring friend. And Ji Jin Hee is impactful as Geu Ru’s father Jeong Woo in the moments that play a big role in Geu Ru’s own emotional journey.
You will have tears in your eyes, both from the more poignant moments and the fun, sometimes hilarious moments as well. Move to Heaven finds a perfect tonal balance that is rarely seen on television. And that makes it all the more resonant.
Thought-provoking and emotionally affecting, this series is a unique and unforgettable television experience. Coupled with intelligent wit and irresistible charm, it’s hard to not come away from the series with a hopeful smile on your face. And by the end of this year, one of the shows that will easily be mentioned as one of the best will be Move to Heaven.