Giving heartwarming lessons on love, life and death, persistently pulling at your heartstrings, Move To Heaven is a tranche de vie masterpiece. Through its unique and fresh take on death, the Korean show makes you cry and feel warm at the same time, pulling you in emotionally. Great stories have the power to allow us to live vicariously through them and they can transcend culture, and this show is a great example of that. It is one of those shows that you have to watch to experience it, one that cannot be spoiled through explanation.
Delivering some serious gut punches in the first episode itself, the story mainly revolves around Geu-ru, a 20-year-old boy with Asperger syndrome, who is a genius but inexpert at social situations, incapable of handling abrupt changes in his environment, and his relationship with his estranged uncle Sang-gu, an ex-convict and an MMA player, with a reputation for being a scally, who becomes Geu-ru's legal guardian after his father passes away. Each episode takes you on a roller coaster of emotions. The character development for each persona is well-paced, with much back story intertwined with the other stories. Through Geu-ru and Sang-gu, the show portrays how people with very different backgrounds, upbringing, and perspectives can affect and change each other for the better. The evolution of the relationship between the two is one of the most beautiful aspects of the show.
The show introduces us to the unique profession of trauma cleaning. Geu-ru and his father run a trauma cleaning company Move To Heaven. After his father's death, on accepting Geu-ru's guardianship, Sang-gu joins the family-run business. They dispose of the possessions of those who either die alone or whose families have contracted them to do it on their behalf as they were emotionally unable to go through the process. They however do more than just cleaning up and getting rid of the deceased's belongings. They try to construct a story and deduce narratives about the person's life from what they find. They become the messengers of the undelivered messages from the dead to their families, offering their loved ones closure. The show beautifully and with incredible nuance weaves linkages between the ones who have passed away and the ones still around, reminding us how someone has to be alive for someone's death to hold value. A procedural drama, the show is about both Geu-ru and Sang-gu as much as it is about the deceased they cross paths with.
Revolving around the grim subject of death and the grief that follows, the show tries to look at the deceased through the lens of items they leave behind. The writing brilliantly puts across the ability of objects to transport us into a different time, their ability to retain memory and act as a stimulus for recollection for those who recognise it, reminding us that a person in some senses lives in their possessions too. Roland Barthes in his book Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography links photography with death. While looking at the picture of his dead mother, Barthes realises that every photograph of him contains the sign of his death. That at the quintessence of photography lies the implied message of "that has been" and you cannot help but ponder on it as you watch the way people reminisce about the departed through their objects.
The show is beautifully shot, making you feel the respect and sensitivity the makers had towards the characters and stories they tell. By way of its deeply thought-through storytelling, it draws you in completely. The impeccable writing and acting bring out the substance and depth in the topics the show divulges in.
This slice-of-life drama, brings a short but powerful story through its 10 episodes, shedding light on a different social issue, urging us, the viewers, to have a more humane outlook towards people around us. It reminds us how close death is to us all and how important it is to cherish the time we have, with the ones we love. With each cleaning ending with packing the deceased's ultimate worldly belongings in a small box, you cannot help but wonder about the eventual and incontrovertible mortality and fragility of human life. The show is a great watch, especially during the pandemic when the pouring in of death statistics over a year-and-a-half has desensitised us towards it. Arthur Schopenhauer said, "Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things." By making us face death, and moving away from statistics, and putting a face to the tragedies, the show makes us realise how important it is to live, helping us find clarity.