GLove (2011): Scream and Listen From Your Heart

How many times have you heard about BASEBALL changing lives of people? A bat, a ball or a home run touching and moving hearts of many, piercing through lives and souls of people, teaching life lessons that one probably will never learn from textbooks? I’m sure most have and would have come across the sport at one point in time in life, either via RL viewing or playing experience, or from the TV. I myself ain’t no different. I don’t play it, neither do I know the basic rules of the sport, no matter how many times I’ve been taught or briefed about it, I just don’t get how it works. But there is one thing that I do know, it’s a beautiful sport encompassing one of the biggest crowds and fighting spirits ever (apart from football/soccer and tennis). It’s like crack, once you’re in it and invested, you’re a fan forever.

Like other prominent and well known sport films (such as Forever The Moment and National Representative just to name a few), GLove is by no means different. It revolves around the sport of baseball changing lives of different people, teaching them lessons that they would never have expected coming their way. A life inspiring story about charging forward without fear despite the burden of physical and mental restraints. And more than anything, a beautiful and heartwarming film depicting friendship, courage and trust.

I’m glad I stumbled across this film and gave it a chance. I honestly didn’t know about this until I found the DVD in one of the shops that I frequent almost every week to satisfy the movie buff in me. And thanks to the awesome Wild Romance, which had ignited a slight spark of interest in the sport in me, I don’t think I would have bought it. And worse still I had to keep the DVD stashed with a bulk of others for about 2 months… until last night, when I decided to just watch something on TV/DVD player (with PC having gone kaput and drama downloads stuck). And boy did I make the best decision ever. I was rewarded with one of the most beautiful and heartrending sports films ever. :D

GLove’s approach is hackneyed no doubt. It’s the usual the zero-to-hero or underdog-to-victor concept, nothing new there. But what sets this film apart from the rest is that these underdogs are no ordinary underdogs. Comprised of the deaf, mute and hearing-impaired, they make up Sacred Heart High School’s baseball team. A team of 10 baseball players who are essentially naive and afraid to face the world with their handicap, but who yearn and crave to play the sport competitively with the rest of the (normal) teams out there. However with no capable coach to lead and guide them, their dream seems to be out of reach.

In comes cocky and temperamental Kim Sang Nam (played by the wonderful WONDERFUL Jung Jae Young), ex-star pitcher of a a renowned baseball club, who is suspended and penalised to coaching the team pending disciplinary action after a violent brawl. An amusing character with the most conventional alpha-male attitude ever – a flippant and impudent smart-alec who doesn’t give a damn about others other than himself. And as the story develops, we see things change. Together with and aided by Teacher Na (Yoo Seon), a music teacher at the school who loves her boys and protects them with all her might, he forges a strong bond and friendship with the team, coaches them, and learns a few life lessons from them along the way.

GLove’s premise may be banal and cliche, but the execution and storyline are surprisingly grounded and realistic. It’s loosely based on a true story, so I wasn’t expecting it to be different or anything. There are only a handful of ways to tell a sports story, and depicting the struggles and growth of those involved (the coach and the players) is one of the very few. This film is no different, it has all the expected elements derivative of such a concept. It never requires a unique approach because all it needs to bank on –  the genuineness of the characters and story. Simple and poignant, with nothing too over the top, dramatic or intrusive.

The characters in the film on the other hand are decently carved out. Some are redundant and seen before, such as Kim Sang Nam and Teacher Na (so as their bickering interactions). But the supporting characters are fresh, intriguing and well acted enough to hinder this from falling into the oh-so-cliche category of films. Apart from the growth of Coach Kim (growing from being an ass to a somewhat understanding person), it is the portrayal of the hearing-impaired players which makes this film a notch higher and resounding. Not a single player in the team speaks well, even the the centric character Myung Jae speaks in the most awkward sounding way. The realism portrayed in the gestures and mannerisms, coupled with the sign languages used, are also ache/tear-inducing to watch. I have to admit I teared up and sobbed like a baby in a few of the scenes. They truly made me appreciate what I have, and what some of the others don’t.

GLove may not be a stellar flic, but it is a film filled with a plethora of heart and life lessons worth learning from. It doesn’t stretch too far or delves deep into the characters development or internal conflicts. But it succeeds in making people care and resonate with them. A lot of us, we may not truly understand the exact plight and problems faced by these handicapped people, how hard is it to face the real world with a smile knowing how much inside that acceptance is hard to reach. The film touches such aspect on the surface, a bit too conveniently, but never misses the point it tries to convey. It doesn’t try hard. Its motif is to make us understand.

A particular scene which got me into a sob-fest (and which I will not spoil here) perfectly encapsulates the overall message the film intends to convey. The heightened tension, the overwhelming fighting spirit, the motivation to do more than what you think you can. It’s all there. By then, you would have already witnessed the changes in Kim Sang Nam and the players, the amazing effect rendered on both parties mutually.

“Scream and listen from hour heart, regardless of your disability. Nobody can undo the effort that you’ve poured out.”

Direction of GLove is helmed by the widely known and critically acclaimed Kang Woo Suk (Silmido, Public Enemy Trilogy and Moss). I’ve seen some of his films to know that he’s mostly action-focused and has a very grounded touch on most of his works. As expected, he doesn’t disappoint in his story-telling of a normal story about growing up and friendship-bonding. There are touches of wit and banter which make the whole film more interesting,  and not to mention the heartrending sequences capable of tugging at your hearts’ deepest. There are no over the top or histrionic tropes, which I appreciate very much, and neither are there really deeply intricate touches, which is fine by me. Overall, direction is pretty much spot on.

Acting is good all across the board. Jung Jae Young is wonderful in his characterisation of Kim Sang Nam, giving what’s best of a near-stereotypical character. He has wonderful chemistry with with Yoo Seon, tho I suspect is mostly a derivation of their bickering relationship, and clicks well with almost everyone in the film. But amongst all, it’s the players who shine above all. The actors who gave their all into mastering the hearing-impaired characters. In particular, Jang Ki Bum (a younger Jo Hyun Jae-Kim Seung Woo-Kim Min Jong lookalike), the central supporting character Myung Jae, a star pitcher likened to Kim Sang Nam. Myung Jae lost his hearing capability during his finest, and sunk into despair and distraught. With Kim Sang Nam’s encouragement and chiding, he picks himself up and regains determination to play. The actor gave a very convincing performance, made me cry buckets of tears. His passion for the sport and his determination to lead his team to victory are one of the highlights of the film, conveyed with such gripping intensity and conviction. You’d be surprised that he’s only acted in a few noticeable works till now.

Overall, GLove is a great film for mainstream viewers. It has all the right elements for everyone, young and old, girl and boy. It touches on aspects of life that we all care about and motivates us to do more when we’re equipped with the perfect resources and capability. It allows us to ponder on our lives a bit, teaches us to appreciate everything that we have and even, gives us some insights into the mechanism of the sport (tho I still have no solid idea hehe).

In short, a good film doesn’t need to blow you away, make your jaw drop or render you sleepless for nights. All it needs is just to move you with one scene. One scene. And you’ll be sold.

Rating: 8/10

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Have an Eng-subbed Trailer:

credits:   / pictures as tagged and labeled

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