‘Dream’ (2023) Review: An Elementary Tale Of Underdogs That Wins For Its Performances

The Korean movie starring Park Seo-Jun and idol IU is exactly what you expect from it, but somehow Dream still manages to hit you in the feels. We’ve seen this story a hundred times, especially when it comes to sports, but somehow it’s the complete opposite of boring and keeps you hooked from beginning to end. Not to say it doesn’t have its flaws, but it manages to entertain thanks to the performances by the supporting actors who make the team for the “Homeless Football World Cup.” 

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Director Lee Byeong-Heon planned on making Dream about a decade ago and finally had the chance to tell the story of the homeless. This doesn’t necessarily come across in the film; although he makes it a point for us to know exactly what the back story of each of the members of the team is, at the end of the day, the “underdog” story shines the brightest. I also think there’s a big flaw in the way this film is marketed using the two lead stars, who have quite small roles in it. Specifically, there’s some untapped potential for IU, who is actually quite entertaining as a documentary maker who pretends to keep it together when she actually has a short temper and seemingly no fears.

Park Seo-Joon stars as a footballer who lost his popularity because he assaulted a guy by poking him in the eye. His team then decides that if he can’t be a sportsman, he should at least use his handsome face to be a celebrity. At the same time, Lee So-Min (IU) needs to make a good documentary to build her own reputation. They’re made to team up as So-Min is set to make a documentary on the Homeless World Cup Team that Hong-Dae will coach. Personally, I really enjoyed this side of Seo-Joon, who takes a back seat and lets the other actors do their thing naturally. 

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Kim Jong-Soo, Ko Chang-Seok, and Jung Seung-Gil are the highlights of the film as they deliver natural yet comical performances for their respective roles. We see their characters slowly unfurl through the film, although it may have been more interesting to see it through So-Min’s lens, to give her character a better chance to shine. As a Korean movie, it’s natural to have a lot of drama, even if it is a comedy, and that doesn’t take away from the entertainment. Dream is 2 hours long and could have been cut down to a crisp one hour and 45 minutes for the best result. The ending is what most people will enjoy because it gives them the same feeling as watching an actual soccer game. The pacing of the film is just right and prevents it from feeling lethargic at any point. The football games are especially fun to watch, and as you see an international crowd cheering in Korean for the South Korean team, you feel like joining in too. Young actor Lee Hyun Woo also does a really good job for a role that is extremely important and has barely any lines.

Dream doesn’t do the excellent job Lee Byeong-Heon had hoped it would, especially because by the end of the film, you sort of forget it’s about the homeless and just see it as a bunch of unlikely, dissimilar people playing a game of soccer to win the hearts of the people they love. Keeping that in mind, the film doesn’t really tackle any of the problems faced by these people; it just shows us a part of why they’re in that position. It’s entertaining, yes, but does it deliver a strong message? Not really. But keeping the director’s goals aside, it is a fun watch and delivers in the comedy aspect, so you could probably watch and forget about it in no time. What can be appreciated about Dream is that it respects its subjects and never makes a mockery of the stories it’s trying to tell for the sake of comedy. Instead, writers Lee and Mohammed Abdullah do a good job of landing jokes at the right time and with the right intention. The football shots are especially fun to watch, and there are some sequences of Park Seo-Joon running that are incredible.

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If you’re going in with the hope of romance, I’d suggest not watching the film because it doesn’t suddenly become an enemies-to-lovers film where IU’s Lee So-Min and Seo-Joon’s Hong-Dae fall in love and coach the team together. It’s a very straightforward sports comedy. Maybe because it’s 2023, such a movie may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but if you’re a sucker for heartfelt comedies and cry easily, then this one will surely be a fun watch. If you go in with high expectations, Dream may disappoint, but as someone who had no expectations and had also forgotten what the movie was about, I was pleasantly surprised and touched by it. If you’re looking for a light, funny watch on a weekday, then this is a good choice.

Although expected, it’s a little bit disappointing to see only a couple of female characters in the films, two of whom are really important. I especially did not appreciate the path taken for Hong-Dae’s mother’s storyline. Even IU feels underutilized, especially after last year’s Broker,” which was actually shot after this film. Also, unexpectedly, the film follows the same cliche of “teamwork makes the dream work” (if you know, you know), but since it has a genuine take on it, it doesn’t come across as cliche but rather familiar. It’s an easy family watch, with little to no profanity and a perfect message. There’s nothing extraordinary about Dream, it’s not new or shot fantastically, but it’s touching enough to give it a single watch. I did laugh out loud a couple of times, so at least there’s that. I’d give Dream about 3 out of 5 stars for a solid dose of entertainment.

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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There's nothing extraordinary about Dream, it's not new or shot fantastically, but it's touching enough to give it a single watch. 'Dream' (2023) Review: An Elementary Tale Of Underdogs That Wins For Its Performances