With a title like “The Suicide Forecast,” this film sure has an eye-catching and cheerful DVD cover. It turns out that this South Korean film does have a fine edge of humor woven through an entertaining story that involves a very serious topic.
Bae Byeong-wu is a retired pro baseball player currently working as a life insurance salesman. He’s outgoing, driven, and believes in working hard to achieve his dream of earning a million dollar salary. He has a nice apartment, a smart girlfriend, and is on the way to making it big. Byeong-wu is determined to make something of himself.
However, the insurance business is tough, and getting tougher, what with so many clients dying these days. No one likes to say it out loud, but the company is being hurt by a large number of contracts they have to pay out when the client commits suicide. Therefore, top salesmen who can score new accounts and bring in more money are valued.
The film opens with Byeong-wu making major progress towards his goal. He has just been scouted by a major firm with the promise of only handling the most VIP clients. It’s a fantastic coup, and Byeong-wu is on cloud nine. Unfortunately, his euphoria is short-lived. One of his clients has just committed suicide.
Byeong-wu can’t believe this situation. Right when his career is taking off, this has to happen. Next thing he knows, he’s being summoned by the police and questioned in connection with the client’s death. Byeong-wu had met with that client the night before, and the client’s family blames the death on advice he got from Byeong-wu. While Byeong-wu vehemently denies doing anything to encourage the man to kill himself, he can’t help but admit that the client did ask what the payout to his family would be if he ended it all.
While having drive, ambition, and the willingness to work hard is great, it also means that Byeong-wu sometimes loses sight of the smaller things around him in his race to earn more money. His obsession with money makes him appear insensitive and shallow. He has developed such a self-centered confidence based on his own hard work ethic, that when encounters others who aren’t as driven as he is, he can’t quite understand them. Killing yourself just isn’t an option. Then Byeong-wu remembers something that fills him with a feeling of dread – he has other clients that may soon kill themselves too.
In his rush to move ahead towards his goal, Byeong-wu was not always as strict as he should have been when signing new clients. There was, in fact, a small group who had previous suicide attempts on their records. That should have disqualified then, but Byeong-wu signed them up anyway, And now he’s paying the price. These “suspicious clients” are still alive, but there is a deadline approaching after which their contracts mature, and if the clients die after that date, their families are entitled to a lot of money. It’s bad news for Byeong-wu if even more of his clients start killing themselves. He has to stop them before it’s too late for all involved.
At first, Byeong-wu appears to be motivated purely by self-interest when he goes to find each of these clients. He can’t comprehend their desperate situations and bleak outlooks. But as he gets to know each one, he is drawn into their lives and becomes almost as desperate as they are. While it is ultimately up to each client in regards to their decision to end their lives or not, and it’s not as simple as saying, “don’t do it,” his actions and presence definitely do give the clients more to think about.
Can Byeong-wu find all of his past clients and prevent them from killing themselves? Will he be able to avoid the charges he faces and hit his goal of earning a million dollar salary?
“The Suicide Forecast” is the latest offering from 5 Points Pictures, a new branch of anime distributor Nozomi Entertainment. I was thrilled when Nozomi announced their plan to release live action films. I am always happy with their choices of anime titles, and the quality of the product they produce is usually excellent. Therefore, I had high hopes that they would continue this great trend under the new label with live-action features.
Sure enough, “The Suicide Forecast” is a winner. I was crying buckets by the end, (what can I say) and I felt satisfied with how the plot played out. Byeong-wu evolves from an unlikeable guy to a sympathetic character. He seems to change a lot over the course of the film, yet at the same time, we see that some things about him haven’t changed at all, and were great all along, and the audience is forced to reevaluate the initial depiction of his character.
“The Suicide Forecast” isn’t really a comedy or a drama. There is no slapstick, and not many scenes that are deliberately played for comedy (with the exception of a certain baseball flashback). It’s more of a character-driven story that has moments of seriousness, sadness, and humor all in relation to the human experience. It’s a dark, sarcastic, sort of humor, and is, for the most part, subtle or contained. There is also a surprising amount of tension as well, as all of the plot lines intertwine and build up a sort of pressure and anxiety that culminates on one really crazy evening for our hero as he races against the clock to save lives. I was on the edge of my seat.
Is the film perfect? No. Some of the characters have extremely unbelievable things happen to them, and there are a lot of lucky and unlucky coincidences. Yet it all still manages to work, thanks to a solid lead performance by Ryu Seung-beom, who plays Byeong-wu. He owns this film, and throws himself completely into the role. I was also impressed with Park Cheol-min, who plays a worn out father. That actor has such an expressive face, that even when he doesn’t say a word, he communicates volumes. Great job.
“The Suicide Forecast” is presented in 2.35:1, and runs 124 minutes. The colors and lighting manage to create a mood that is both warm and gritty. I thought Ryu Seung-beom, who plays Byeong-wu, looked a lot better during the filming of the behind-the-scenes feature than he does in the final film.
As with most live-action Korean movie and drama releases, the film is in its original Korean language with English subtitles. The audio is a nice Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and sounds good.
I was happy to find a few extras included with this disc. The best is a BTS featurette that interviews the director, Choi Jin-mo. He discusses the various characters in the film and how they were written or developed. We get to see several scenes being filmed, and a few that look like they were changed before the final cut. Next is the original Korean trailer. Finally, there are cast and crew bios.
A film that faces a serious topic with black humor, “The Suicide Forecast” is not for everyone. It attempts to offer a hopeful message about a serious subject. The acting is solid and the characters and plot are engaging. I enjoyed the film, however, it may come off as too unrealistic or insensitive for those experiencing such issues in real life.