In late 2012, three wannabe actors decide that they’ve had enough of living a squalid existence while waiting for stardom to arrive, and plan to collaborate together on an independent film. Their expectations and excitement are initially high, yet complications occur during the course of filming that serve to create problems between them. Meanwhile, hysteria involving the end of the world is gathering as the end of the year draws nigh, forcing the trio to consider their final night on Earth.
At recent Korean film festivals a project always seems to arrive that attempts to explore the difficulties and frustrations of independent filmmaking. Each time it becomes increasingly problematic for the production to approach the issues from a new and interesting angle, as well as to make the audience root for the underdogs to succeed, and ultimately, to stand out in an overcrowded arena.
Director Baek Jae-ho (백재호) opts for a familiar approach in We Will Be Ok, choosing to focus on a group of down-on-their-luck aspiring stars, yet underscores the entire film with the 2012 anxieties of armageddon which is a refreshing perspective. The intention is clearly to force the protagonists to confront their mortality and thus spur them into (filmmaking) action, yet while the idea is solid enough it is difficult to really engage and care about whether the actors achieve their dreams of making it big.
Primarily this is due to the lack of characterization and a narrative that tends to meander. Main protagonist Sang-seok, as well as friends Tae-hee and Jae-ho (also the director), aren’t compelling characters as they convey a sense of laziness and selfishness rather than determination. Similar approaches appeared in Director’s CUT, and worked well to a certain extent in 2013’s Cheer Up, Mr. Lee due to the comedy underpinning it, yet in We Will Be Ok such wit is absent. The film is occasionally funny however, particularly when the trio attempt to shoot their own indie as they clearly have no idea how to make a film, simply pointing an iPhone and shouting “Action!” without having prepared a storyboard or, for that matter, anything else.
Strangely, after the story trudges along without any real conviction, in the final act We Will Be Ok suddenly becomes an engaging road movie with a situation to invest in, as Sang-seok and karaoke bar girl/friend Lee Hwa take a trip to the coast to enjoy the last sunrise before the end of the world. Their discussions are poignant and revealing, particularly when referring to people who fall through the cracks of society and having a reason to live. It’s a real shame that director Baek didn’t focus his entire film on the great ideas generated within the final act, for as it stands We Will Be Ok is mediocre offering.
Director Baek Jae-ho’s We Will Be Ok is yet another independent film attempting to explore the difficulties of making it big in the industry, and while it treads familiar ground it offers a refreshing angle by incorporating 2012 anxieties of armageddon. However as the narrative meanders coupled with a distinct lack of character development the film is hard to invest in, yet We Will Be Ok is saved by an engaging road movie-esque final act.