Park Seo Joon and IU: Why netizens are talking about ‘Dream’

It is a must-watch—World Cup mania meeting K-movie

Park Seo Joon

Football and World Cup fever remains high here in the Philippines after the women’s national football team Filipinas Malditas’ spectacular win in Auckland, New Zealand, beating the more battle-ready home team.

A nation hungry for a stellar turn on the global arena is still high on football, as this is the first time in its history that a Philippine team has qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. But, even as their advance to the second stage of their 2023 campaign was cut short on Sunday when the Malditas lost their match against the very formidable Norway, the team has energized a whole nation.They  made their mark and have vowed to continue training for the next World Cup, with fans lapping up every morsel of information on them on all media platforms.

Against this backdrop, avid viewers of K-drama and  movies have been talking about Dream, a two-hour film with Park Seo Joon and IU in the lead roles. It made its debut at the New York Asian Film Festival on July 17; Netflix uploaded it in Asia on July 15. Since then, “Dream-fever” has not abated. As of this writing, it is at no. 4 in the Top Ten Most Watched Movies on Netflix.

What makes Dream, a sports comedy-drama, a must-watch, and why is every movie fan talking about it?

For one, it does not tell a new story. There have been many films on sports, including football, that have broken box office records. Second, the human drama inherent in every sport and the adrenaline rush that even spectators feel as athletes struggle for that gold medal or run to break the tape at the finish line is the usual stuff of cinema. Third, an athlete’s rise to fame and glory from an impoverished background certainly opens the tear ducts.

What more if it’s a ragtag band of “losers” brought together to form a team to compete in a world cup?

Netflix uploaded it in Asia on July 15. As of this writing, it is at no. 4 in the roster of Top Ten Most Watched Movies on Netflix

In Dream, the team is composed of a motley crew of homeless men of varying ages, each with a heartbreaking backstory and almost nil experience on the football field. Assigned to coach them is Yoon Hong Dae (Park Seo Joon), a star football player who, because of a temper outburst, can no longer suit up for any team. From famous athlete, he has become an object of ridicule among avid football fans.


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His crime: poking a journalist in the eye because the latter kept badgering him about his scammer of a mother. Now off court, team management decides that to refurbish his image for a possible comeback, he should parlay his handsome and virile looks into a viable public image. But being a celebrity ogled at by the public is not Hong Dae’s idea of a career.

To make him climb back up to celebrity status, his management decides, he must work from the sidelines coaching the men who will suit up for the Homeless Football World Cup. He does not take to the role with much enthusiasm.

Into the picture comes smart straight-talking Lee So Min (IU), who is tasked with filming a documentary for television. Through the docu, So Min aims to build her own reputation and make money to pay off loans.

Versatile actor Park Seo Joon brings to his role as Hong Dae a knack for superb comic timing while plumbing the depths of emotions in his scenes with the homeless characters who come with varied sob stories.

IU the documentarist is simply out to finish the docu, and does not have much of an opinion on Hong Dae’s fall from grace. About his inability to deliver what she needs for her film, she asks him, with hardly any emotion, questions that she herself answers: “Oppa, what is it we both need? Image. Where does that come from? The men on the team, their back stories. How do we produce a story that will move people to tears? This kind of narrative, and we have limited time.” They had only two months to train before the World Cup in Budapest. Initially, Hong Dae didn’t want to make the connection, and had no desire to be a celebrity coach.

Versatile actor Park Seo Joon brings to his role as Hong Dae a knack for superb comic timing

As the story reaches midpoint, however, coach and documentarist become immersed in the team and in the individual stories of the men.

Ultimately, the humor and the heart of Dream rest not only on our main leads. Each of the supporting cast, playing homeless team members with different aspirations and issues, makes the film almost a reality show that balances depth and levity in every frame.

The success of Dream rests as much on the shoulders of its director Lee Byeong Heong, who has impeccable comic timing that allows relief after some tearjerkers. His decision to cast Park Seo Joon as coach is a clever move, ditto with his choice of IU. Wisely, he also does not make the main leads end up as romantic partners. That would have spoiled the film.

Cinematography and pacing were also down pat. The football match is so well orchestrated, making the viewer feel like he is watching the game live.

There is no surfeit of background music, no elaborate OST, but the use of a recording of IU singing her song, A Dreamer, gave the film just the right feel. The same was used in the movie’s promotional videos. As a critic said, “It is a calm and soulful song that arouses inspiration and (gives) motivation to do something better in life.”

Dream is based on actual events. Its director was inspired to make the film after watching a documentary about the Homeless Football World Cup that a team from Korea participated in. The team members and the movie script are fictitious, however.

Wisely, director Lee Byeong Heong did not make the main leads end up as romantic partners. That would have spoiled the film

The Korea Herald had also published a feature about the South Korean team of eight homeless men who were headed to Paris in August 2011 for the Homeless World Cup. The men also sold Big Issue, a magazine that allows homeless people to earn legitimately as vendors. In Dream, the homeless team members sell Big Issue.

Here’s what critics and viewers say:

“The emotion of this movie is the key element. The storyline is nothing new, but the portrayal of Park Seo Joon in Dream will keep you hooked.” — koimos.com, July 26, 2023

“One thing the film does well is demonstrate that anyone can deal with homelessness… The cast of homeless players (how they moved the story) steal the show in spite of (or despite) Park Seo Joon’s and IU’s stellar power not being fully utilized by the director.” — Nicole Ackman, Ready Steady Cut, July 26, 2023

“Totally dramatic and emotion-driven film. A great watch if you’re looking for some comedy of errors, quirky characters… I love how the film celebrates imperfection and struggles so massively that every step of progress feels like a winning trophy in itself.” — apoorva das, imdb Dream/Reviews

My own verdict: Watch this thoroughly engaging film that does not capitalize on Park Seo Joon’s drawing power, but rather on his ability to play one more character that is so different from his other lead roles. This is what also allows the supporting cast to shine.

Watch it also to see IU in one of her more understated roles that serves the story, not her stardom. A bonus is hearing a recording of her singing in the background A Dreamer, one of her more underrated songs.

It is certainly a good way to pass the time, locked indoors on a stormy day.

About author


After saying goodbye to daily deadlines in 2009, WINNIE DOROTHEO VELASQUEZ worked from home editing manuscripts and writing on subjects close to her heart. She discovered the world of K-Drama in the early 2000s. Today, she cooks, does some gardening, and is training Cookie, da mutt-with-the-mostest.

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